Jazz records that have been rated but are awaiting final blog review.
Oldest first (except those carried over from JCG(28) are in alphabetical
- Afterfall (2008 , Clean Feed):
Ad hoc group names
cause paperwork headaches trying to keep track of jazz releases, and
this label is particularly fond of concocting such names. I filed this
under guitarist Luis Lopes, figuring he was the first named and held
home court recording in Lisbon. Moreover, he's on a run, his guitar the
steely backbone of at least four fine records in a row, most with horns
which add to but scarcely eclipse him. Jazzloft, on the other hand,
filed this under soprano saxophonist Joe Giardullo, older and no doubt
better known in America but not exactly a household name. Giardullo
mostly plays tenor here, not all that distinctive, but the extra heft
and depth sounds good, especially mixed with Sei Miguel's muted pocket
trumpet. Also working here are Benjamin Duboc on bass and Harvey Sorgen
on drums. A little more inside than Lopes's Humanization 4tet records,
which makes this a tad less impressive, but that seems to be Lopes's
knack: to make good records without showing off much flash.
- Agogic (2010 , Tables and Chairs):
this eponymous group album under trumpeter Cuong Vu, but on second
thought Andrew D'Angelo (alto sax, bass clarinet) is, as I should
have expected, the more forceful leader. Squaring off the quartet
are Luke Bergman on electric bass and Evan Woodle on drums. The
two-horn jousts are pretty exciting although they sometimes come
unfrayed under the heat of battle. The two-horn unison dirge makes
a powerful sound as well.
- Bebop Trio (2011, Creative Nation Music):
students: Lefteris Kordis (piano, from Greece), Thor Thorvaldsson (drums,
from Iceland), and Alec Spiegelman (clarinet, from Brooklyn). Drummer
has mostly played in rock bands. Clarinetist also belongs to Klezwoods.
Group/album name is a misnomer: their covers stake out various pianists,
some bebop, some harder to pin down: Bud Powell, Duke Ellington, George
Shearing, Elmo Hope, Herbie Nichols, Lennie Tristano. Still, Spiegelman's
model isn't Buddy DeFranco or Jimmy Giuffre; it's Steve Lacy, who was
famous for bypassing bebop when he jumped from trad jazz to avant-garde.
Lacy taught some at NEC during his last years, and Irene Aëbi passed
some Lacy charts to Spiegelman, and one thing led to another.
- Tim Berne/Jim Black/Nels Cline: The Veil (2009
Front cover just has initials: "bb&c"; spine
has last names: "Berne/Black/Cline"; back cover spells it all out, and
adds "recorded live at the stone NYC." Alto sax-drums-guitar, if you
still need to know. Starts off with a repetitive thing then slides into
deep thrash, which is something Cline is prone to and that the others
can play with, but it settles out into something more interesting.
Still mostly a guitar album -- Berne's sax rarely breaks out.
- Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, from Portugal, based in Germany, has a half-dozen
or more records since 1996, four with his trio Azul (Frank Möbius
on guitar, Jim Black on drums). Not sure if Prima-Matéria is a
distinct group -- doesn't show up on Bica's website project list
nor on trumpeter Matthias Schriefl's MySpace page (Schreefpunk,
European TV Brass Trio, Brazilian Motions, deujazz, 2 Generations
of Trumpets, United Groove-O-Rama, Schmittmenge Meier, Mutantenstadt).
Group also includes Mário Delgado on electric guitar, João Lobo
on drums and percussion, and João Paulo on piano, keyboards, and
accordion. Assembled from three concerts -- the one patch of
applause comes at a bit of surprise, even if well earned. Rather
patchy, the main shift turning on Paulo's accordion, which puts
the band in a mood for tango or something folkloric; otherwise
they have a tendency toward soundtrack, with three placenames in
the titles. Still, Schriefl is a smoldering trumpet player, and
this never settles into the ordinary.
- Ketil Bjørnstad: Remembrance (2009 , ECM):
Norwegian pianist, b. 1952, has recorded with ECM at least since
1994. Leads a trio here, with Tore Brunborg on tenor sax and Jon
Christensen on drums -- all three were previously in Masqualero,
along with Arild Andersen and Nils Petter Molvaer if memory serves.
One title piece in eleven parts.
- Jim Black/Trevor Dunn/Oscar Noriega/Chris Speed: Endangered
Blood (2010 , Skirl):
Oversized packaging, roughly the
size of a DVD box, which makes it inconvenient for filing. Not clear
if Endangered Blood is deemed a group title, but the four artists are
more usefully listed on the front cover. Drums, bass, alto sax/bass
clarinet, and tenor sax respectively. One cover, Monk's "Epistrophy";
everything else is credited to Speed, so it must be alphabetical order
governing the credits. The faster the rhythm propels them, the more
interesting this gets -- "Tacos and Oscars" is the standout track.
- BLOB: Earphonious Swamphony (2010, Innova):
Group, consisting of John Lindberg on bass, Ted Orr on guitar,
and Harvey Sorgen on drums. I'm least familiar with Orr, who
is also an audio engineer and plays Axon MIDI guitar as well
as electric. Don't have an acronym definition of BLOB, so they
may just be fond of caps -- certainly fits their penchant for
loud noise. Fifth album since 2006, with a couple more listed
as upcoming. This one bills Ralph Carney as a special guest,
and he adds a lot of resonance in the deep end, especially
when playing bass sax, bass trombone, and tuba -- clarinets
and flute are his other credits. Mostly noise, but they make
something out of it, and the lumbering rumble is fascinating
in its own right.
- Dan Block: Plays the Music of Duke Ellington: From His World
to Mine (2009 , Miles High):
Block plays tenor and alto
sax, various clarinets, and basset horn. First album under his own
name; I'm having trouble tracking down his side credits, which may
include some classical performances as well as a fair number of more
or less trad jazz groups -- I get more hits grepping my notebook for
him than AMG lists (Linda Ronstadt's big band, David Berger's Sultans
of Swing, George Gee, John Sheridan's Dream Band, Michael Camacho,
Chris Flory, Jerry Costanzo/Andy Farber [on baritone], Marty Grosz's
Hot Winds, Catherine Russell). Ellington and Strayhorn tunes, none
of the really obvious ones you've heard hundreds of times (although
I've certainly played "Mt. Harrissa" that much, enough to recognize
it even without the original's pyrotechnic brass), given the small
group swing treatment, sometimes with Pat O'Leary's cello and no drums;
about half in a septet with Mike Kanan on piano, James Chirillo on
guitar, and Mark Sherman on vibes. Lovely stuff -- Block favors his
clarinet but I'm partial to his tenor sax.
- Jaki Byard: A Matter of Black and White: Live at the Keystone
Korner, Vol. 2 (1978-79 , High Note):
released his first record in 1960, was an important figure in the 1960s,
not avant-garde but not in any mainstream either -- Out Front!
(1961) is a prime example, and I also like The Last From Lennie's
(1965, came out in 2003) although I missed the two volumes that preceded
it. Solo piano, well-worn standards -- "God Bless the Child," "Alexander's
Ragtime Band," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "I Know
a Place," "'Round Midnight," "Day Dream," among others. Bright, touching.
- Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne: Old and Unwise (2010 ,
Bassist, b. 1959 in France, one previous album under his
own name, side-credits with Louis Sclavis, André Jaume, Daniel Humair,
Marc Ducret, Stefano Battaglia, Tony Malaby. Berne has a lot of records
going back to 1979. He sticks to alto sax here, his main instrument.
Chevillon wrote all of the pieces. Pays to focus on the bass here --
a more diversified source of noise than the sax, which just moves from
note to note, however inventively.
- Claire Daly Quintet: Mary Joyce Project: Nothing to Lose
(2011, Daly Bread):
Baritone saxophonist, fifth album since 1999, first
I've heard although I've noted her winning Downbeat's poll several
times. Also plays alto sax and flute here, credibly in both cases, but
the big horn is the treat. Quintet includes piano (Steve Hudson, who
wrote or co-wrote about half of this), bass, drums, and Napoleon Maddox
("human beat box"). Mary Joyce was a relative ("father's first cousin")
who among other things drove a dogsled from Juneau to Fairbanks in 1935-36
(1,000 miles) -- a story capped off in the closer ("Epilogue").
- Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma):
pianist, b. 1953 in Havana, moved to Toronto in 1995. Cut three
records for Justin Time in late 1990s, four now for Alma. Haven't
heard any before this one, but Killer Tumbao is quite a
title. Piano trio, with Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso
on drums. Jumps right at you, and the percussion is pretty Cuban
for my ears.
- Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn]:
Out of This World's Distortions (2010 , AUM Fidelity):
Yet another instance of a group's previous album, entered into by a set
of individuals, has assumed group stature, as if the previous album was
especially notable (which, by the way, this one wasn't). Still, the
individual names ride the masthead, as they indeed still have marketing
value. Group is reportedly "a fully-improvising unit, a complete musical
collective." Cleaver plays drums, Parker bass, Taborn piano; Parker's
done numerous piano trios -- with Matthew Shipp, of course, even more
with Cecil Taylor. Taborn actually manages some Taylor moments here --
far more exciting than the slow start or the melodic end.
- Joan Jeanrenaud/PC Muñoz: Pop-Pop (2010, Deconet):
Cellist, b. 1956 in Tennessee, studied at Indiana and in Geneva,
Switzerland, winding up in San Francisco with Kronos Quartet. Third
album under her own name, the others look to be classical (or what's
been called "new music"). Muñoz is a SF-based percussionist; has
a previous record called PC Muñoz's Grab Bag: Otherworldly Sonic
Adventures!. Doesn't have the rhythmic feel of jazz, but does
keep a regular propulsive vibe going, and makes for an intriguing
piece of instrumental music.
- Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World
(2009 , Music Now!):
Plays trumpet and bass clarinet, a unique combo,
although here he substitutes cornet and flugelhorn for the trumpet,
and adds alto clarinet to the bass clarinet, playing each of his four
instruments on two songs each (7 total, so one shares flugelhorn and
alto clarinet). Three cuts are done with just bass (plus one more
with gongs), spread out with pieces that add drums and Ras Moshe on
tenor sax. The larger group pieces are exceptionally strong, but the
solo horns are clear and commanding as well.
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Quavers! Quavers! Quavers!
Quavers! (2011, Hot Cup):
Guitarist, originally from Chicago,
now in Brooklyn. Looks like Big Five Chord was a self-released
2003 album, ancient history but for its group name reverberations.
Second album with Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup crew: Jon Irabagon and Bryan
Murray on saxes, Elliott on bass, Matt Kanelos on keybs, and Danny
Fischer on drums. Guitar is tantallizingly jagged throughout but
doesn't really explode until the closer, a ditty called "Faith-Based
Initiative," after which the saxes follow suit.
- Sei Miguel/Pedro Gomes: Turbina Anthem (2008 ,
Pocket trumpet/guitar duets. I've run across Miguel
before: b. 1961 in Paris, lived in Brazil before settling down in
Portugal in the 1980s. Released a record in 1988, more since 2002
including two on Clean Feed: one under his own name and another as
part of Afterfall (which I filed under guitarist Luis Lopes). Not
much on Gomes; probably his first record. Cranks up lots of guitar
distortion, playing it for rhythm and harmonic backdrop for the
trumpet. Too harsh to recommend highly, but too visceral to ignore.
Stef, who has fewer compunctions about what other people think,
gave this all five stars.
- Nordic Connect: Spirals (2008 , ArtistShare):
Trumpet player Ingrid Jensen, b. 1967 in Vancouver, BC, Canada;
studied at Berklee; AMG counts six albums since 1994, coutning her
previous Nordic Connect album but not this one. Group includes
sister Christine Jensen (alto/soprano sax), Maggi Olin (piano,
often Fender Rhodes), Mattias Walin (bass), and Jon Wikan (drums) --
Olin and Welin are Swedish, Wikan from Alaska with Norwegian roots
(married to the trumpeter). Olin wrote 5 of 9 pieces, and her
electric piano is the center point of the action, vs. just one
piece for Ingrid Jensen (two for Christine, one for Wikan), so
AMG may be justified in treating this as a group effort. Still,
the trumpet is what shines brightest here.
- Other Dimensions in Music featuring Fay Victor: Kaiso
Stories (2010 , Silkheart):
Group was originally
formed in 1989 with Roy Campbell (trumpet), Daniel Carter (alto
sax), William Parker (bass), and Rashid Bakr (drums). They cut
a group improv album for Silkhear then, then reappeared in 1997
with two albums for AUM Fidelity, one with Matthew Shipp added.
This is their fourth, with Charles Downs taking over the drums
for Bakr, but the more important change is adding vocalist Fay
Victor. As Lars-Olof Gustavsson explains in the liner notes, he
was looking to do a vocal album, found Victor, then matched the
band. Victor is a very strong, distinctive vocalist -- when I
reviewed her Cartwheels Through the Cosmos all I could
do was compare her to Betty Carter -- and she takes yet another
twist here, exploiting her Trinidadian roots with eight lyrics
from classic calypso tunes (Roaring Lion, Lord Executor, Lord
Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow) and 1939 field recordings. The free
jazz improv doesn't make this easy, introducing a tension as
Victor is torn between tying the rhymes down and surrendering
to the chaotic rhythm.
- Ivo Perelman Quartet: The Hour of the Star
(2010 , Leo):
Brazilian tenor saxophonist, has been on a hot run lately and keeps
it going here. Actually just 4 of 6 cuts are quartet, with Matthew Shipp
on piano; the others just Joe Morris on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums.
Shipp pushed Ware harder, but the rhythmic density he brings here is a
plus. Perelman was never as heavy as Ware, Brötzmann, et al., but he
skits agilely around the corners.
- Joshua Redman/Aaron Parks/Matt Penman/Eric Harland: James
Farm (2011, Nonesuch):
Can't call this a supergroup --
only saxophonist Redman comes close, although drummer Harland's the
sort of guy who gets into such groups. But it's not Redman's backup
group either. Both Parks (piano) and Penman (bass) are on the rise,
and each writes three songs here (same as Redman, leaving one for
Harland). Parks has one previous album, a good one, on Blue Note
(which had a good run of breaking piano stars, notably Jason Moran
and Bill Charlap). Penman has two, on Fresh Sound New Talent, which
I've missed (tough to get them these days; something I miss, perhaps
a casualty of the weak dollar). Solid work all around, tuneful and
- Bobby Sanabria: Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!
(2008 , Jazzheads):
Drummer, b. in New York, grew up in South
Bronx, studied at Berklee. Sixth album since 1993, the last few big
band affairs: the band here is billed as Manhattan School of Music
Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Sanabria. This program of
Tito Puente standards blows out all the gaskets, which is to say
it sounds an awful lot like a vintage Puente disc. Looks like one
too: I imagine some customers will be fooled, not that they'll mind
- Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri):
Baritone saxophonist, b. 1978 in Sioux City, IA; based in LA. I'm
pretty sure he's not the Hollywood producer/exec producer of the
same name, although AMG credits him with producing some of the
producer's soundtracks. Credits with Clark Terry, Benny Wallace,
Anthony Wilson, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra are more
credible, especially the latter since John Clayton (bass) and
Jeff Hamilton (drums) anchor the quartet here. First album, two
originals to nine covers, impeccable standards with Quincy Jones
the newest composer. Quartet is rounded out with guitarist Graham
Dechter, whose sweet tone contrasts nicely to the big horn, and
who slides right into the dominant swing idiom. Nice and simple
album, the bari a little awkward but perfect when the notes match.
So down my alley I may not be grading it below my true feelings.
- Serafin: Love's Worst Crime (2010, Serafin):
from Canada, b. in Vancouver, grew up near Toronto, surname LaRiviere,
third album. Touts a five octave vocal range that effectively made the
opener "Comes Love" sound female, becoming more ambiguous later on. He
wrote most of the songs -- the other covers are "My Baby Just Cares for
Me," "Don't Explain," and "Skylark." Has a cabaret feel, most seductive
in the dark.
- Starlicker: Double Demon (2011, Delmark):
(cornet), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), John Herndon (drums). Mazurek is a
guy with lots of ideas, which you can trace through the various Chicago
Underground Duo/Trio/Quartet configurations on up to his Exploding Star
Orchestra. Where the latter typically engages a dozen musicians, this
trio manages to cover the same space much more compactly. Does put more
pressure on the cornet to lead, and for once he does.
- Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Meets Bill Cunliffe (2010 ,
Or to continue the title further: With Special
Guest the Undisputed Father of the Jazz Flute Sam Most. I can't
argue, although it looks like James Moody played a little jazz flute
before Most's 1953 debut, and while I can't find any credits for
Frank Wess before 1954, he's a few years older than Moody, nearly
a decade older than Most. Most cut ten records 1953-59, then a few
more for Xanadu 1976-79. The better known flautist is Herbie Mann,
a few months older than Most but with no records until 1954. Most
always struck me as someone trying to translate Charlie Parker to
flute as literally as possible. Not a great or even very notable
innovation, but he's much more listenable than nearly all of the
jazz flute that followed. Still, he adds little more than color
and background here. Pianist Cunliffe is superb at establishing
the swing rhythm, guitarist Ron Eschete' (no idea why he prefers
the apostrophe to an acute accent) swings too, and the leader's
clarinet is bright and cheery. A nice diversion is Peter Marx's
spoken word "Readings of Kerouac 1" which is really about Slim
Gaillard. Out of character is the cut Weiss turned over to his
grandson. Weiss, you should recall, started to leave his mark
after retirement age. Fifth album I've heard since 2006, and
very nearly his best. [By the way, my copy has a manufacturing
defect which renders the last cut interminable.]
- Kenny Werner: Balloons (2010 , Half Note):
Pianist, b. 1951 in Brooklyn, has 25-30 albums since 1977, considered
a postbop player -- I've heard very few of his records, and flagged
his Guggenheim-winning orchestral No Beginning No End as a
dud. Still, he bounces back impressively here, using the oldest trick
in the book: a really first-rate band, recorded live: David Sanchez
(tenor sax), Randy Brecker (trumpet), John Pattitucci (bass), and
Antonio Sanchez (drums). Four pieces stretch out, the horns taking
especially strong solos, the piano holding the fort together. Ends
with a drum flourish.
- Zed Trio: Lost Transitions (2009 , Ayler):
French trio, don't know much about them, but here goes: Heddy Boubaker
(b. 1963, Marseille, father Tunisian), plays alto and bass sax, mostly
free jazz but has also played in gnawa bands, name listed on a couple
other albums; David Lataillade, electric guitar; and Frédéric Vaudaux,
drums; no further discography. Choppy free improv, tends to get noisy,
which I like to a point but they do push it.
The following have been moved here as during Jazz CG #28 prospecting.
They should be merged with the above once Jazz CG #27 surplus has been
- Antonio Adolfo/Carol Saboya: Lá e Cá/Here and There
Brazilian pianist, composer of a couple pieces here; AMG
lists 17 records since 1992; Discogs has fewer records but they're
almost all earlier, the first from 1969. Sabaya, his daughter, sings,
a cool treat although Adolfo's piano excursions are every bit as
delicious. Aside from Adolfo's originals, everything else has stood
the test of time: "All the Things You Are," "A Night in Tunisia,"
"Time After Time," "Lullaby of Birdland," "'Round Midnight," a lot
of Jobim and Cole Porter, sometimes segued together.
- Harry Allen: Rhythm on the River (2011, Challenge):
Thirteen "river" songs, two by Hoagy Carmichael, the only one without
"river" in the title is "Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On" although the
musty old Stephen Foster "Old Folks at Home" had to reach into the
parents for "Swanee River" -- wonder how they missed "Old Man River"?
The band gets such a charge on the four songs joined by Warren Vaché
and his cornet that Allen's quartet sounds down at first. Eventually
that pays off in drawing out the tenor saxophonist's sumptous balad
- Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward
Drummer-led quartet, b. 1982 -- I read
his bio as saying in Jamaica, but somehow he wound up in Miami. First
album, with Tevin Pennicott on tenor sax, Jim Gasior on piano, and
Kurt Hengstebeck on electric bass. Atkinson, Pennicott, and Gasior
wrote one song each, plus one split between Atkinson and Pennicott;
plus four covers -- a Jobim, "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and
two from Miles Davis (forgetting about Victor Feldman on "Seven Steps
to Heaven"). Group is fast, upbeat, a lot of fun. Pennicott's from
Georgia. I noticed him before when he lifted Kenny Burrell's Be
Yourself to HM status, and he's even better here, in a real sax
- Yaala Ballin: On the Road (2010 , Gallery):
Standards singer, born in Israel, has a New York band and a previous
album on Smalls, as do most of her band: Zaid Nasser (alto sax),
Chris Byars (tenor sax), and Ari Roland (bass); the others are
Vahagn Hayrapetyan (piano) and Keith Balla (drums). Leans heavily on
blues -- two medleys, "Evil Gal Blues/Salty Papa Blues" and "Long
Gone Blues/Wise Woman Blues" tower like the pylons in a suspension
bridge, and you never doubt her right to sing those blues. "I Cried
for You" can't help but remind me of Jimmy Rushing, a thought that
brings me nothing but pleasure. The saxophonists stay within their
roles, but are superb, as expected.
- Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man's Blues/New York
Collage (1977-78 , NoBusiness, 2CD):
The late, great
violinist's first two albums -- the first so obscure I missed it
when I assembled a discography for my 2005 Voice piece on
Bang. A quartet for the first record, with Bilal Abdur Rahman on
tenor and soprano sax, William Parker on bass, and Rashid Bakr on
drums. Rahman, an old friend of Bang's, picked up Islam in prison
and recorded reluctantly but more often than not his cutting and
slashing is terrific here. Both albums are hit and miss, with bits
of spoken word spouting political critique -- "when the poor steal,
it's called looting; when the rich steal, it's called profit" is
one turn of phrase. Second album adds Henry Warner on alto sax
and Khuwana Fuller on congas -- Warner's another player who shows
up on rare occasions but always makes a big impression. Way back
when I would probably have hedged my grade, seeing each album as
promising but half-baked, but now they're indisputable pieces of
history -- and not just because Bang and Parker went on to have
brilliant careers. Also note that the label in Lithuania that
rescued them cared enough to provide a 36-page booklet on the
era and this remarkable music.
- Daniel Bennett Group: Peace & Stability Among Bears
(2010 , Bennett Alliance):
Plays alto sax, flute, clarinet. B.
1979 in Rochester, NY; studied at Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, then
at New England Conservatory in Boston (ah, finally found the inevitable
George Garzone reference). Has two previous bear-themed albums on his
website, all attributed to the Group, which started as a trio then
added a bassist. Current lineup: Chris Hersch (guitar), Jason Davis
(bass), Rick Landwehr (drums). He calls this "folk jazz" and cites
Steve Reich's minimalism as an influence. Repetitive patterns slide
around the guitar, with even the alto sax pitched about as high as
it can go.
- Sarah Bernstein: Unearthish (2010 , Page Frame Music):
Violinist, based in Brooklyn, seems to be her first album
although she has a big role in Iron Dog's Field Recordings 1.
Duo, with percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. More vocals here, things
with sensible lyrics, more spoken than not, reminds one of Laurie
Anderson -- of course, the violin tips that direction.
- Carlos Bica: Things About Carlos Bica & Azul
(2011, Clean Feed):
Title listed above artist name, so it can flow as one, even
into the smaller print "featuring Frank Möbus and Jim Black" (guitar
and drums). Bica is a bassist, from Portugal, has at least seven
going back to his 1996 album Azul (with Möbus, Black, and
a couple guests -- and there seem to be a couple more Azul albums
in the meantime. Möbus has a record/group called Der Rote Bereich --
AMG shows one album, but his website lists six. He's a disarmingly
unfancy player, so it takes a while to sink in how charming he is.
And it's good not to overwhelm the bassist, who has plenty to
contribute on his own.
- Ran Blake/Dominique Eade: Whirlpool
(2004-08 , Jazz Project):
Piano-voice duets. Blake cut his first
album in 1961, calling it The Newest Sound Around, and
has thirty-some records since, most either solo piano or duets
with vocalists (most notably Jeanne Lee; recently with Christine
Correa and Sara Serpa). Eade was b. 1958 in England, met Blake
when she studied at New England Conservatory. She has six albums
since 1992 (counting this one). Her voice is right on target,
so clear it needs little dressing, and Blake makes more out of
less as well as anyone.
- Anthony Branker & Word Play: Dialogic (2011, Origin):
Composer/music director, originally a trumpet player, b.
1958, graduated from and teaches at Princeton. Third album using
this role/methodology -- has an earlier record as Tony Branker.
All interesting postbop directions, but this one is the most
straightforward: basically an old-fashioned sax-piano-bass-drums
quartet, with Ralph Bowen, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, and Adam Cruz.
Can't fathom how the dialectics of Mikhail Bakhtin inspired this,
or why the all-instrumental group is called Word Play, but that's
largely because the music is so satisfying we're left with few
- The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Last Time Out: December 26, 1967
(1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD):
probably off the soundboard, found in a closet and dusted off.
Brubeck had announced his brief retirement to start at the end
of 1967, but in most regards this just extended the hundred-plus
concerts the Quartet had given during the year. A long running,
immensely popular group, With Paul Desmond, the alto saxophonist
who had given the Quartet its signature sound since 1951, drummer
Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, who had joined in 1956 and
1958 respectively. Lots of interesting stuff, ending in a "Take
Five" that leaps right off the stage.
- Bryan and the Haggards: Still Alive and Kickin' Down the
Walls (2011, Hot Cup):
Second group album, not what I'd
call enough longevity to justify the title. Two saxophonists --
Bryan Murray and Jon Irabagon, doubling up on tin whistle and
penny whistle respectively -- plus John Lundbom on guitar (and
banjo), Moppa Elliott on bass, and Danny Fischer on drums. Six
songs written by Merle Haggard, plus two he's sung a lot ("San
Antonio Rose" and "Sing a Sad Song"), with avant vamps -- the
opening "Ramblin' Fever" is a real workout; great shtick, but
"If We Make It Through December" gets stuck on Irabagon's
clarinet and wobbles on for 10:05, making one doubt that we will.
- Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (2011, Firehouse 12):
Cornet player, has been popping up all over the place recently, but
claims this as his "primary working ensemble." There's a lot to like about
the group -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary
Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- not least
its extreme range and diversity (almost to the point of divisiveness). Yet
even though the pieces fit together uncomfortably, neither of the most
exposive players (Hobbs, Halvorson) break out -- most likely the gravity
exuded by Filiano and (especially) Lowe keeps them in orbit.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: All Out
Alto sax-drums-piano trio, the first two long-time chums
from Quebec, Lapin a Russian pianist who joined them for a slightly
earlier album on Leo, Inner Spire. The two records are roughly
equivalent: open-ended free improvs, more group than individuals, the
piano adding something but rarely distinctive.
- James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (2011, Emarcy):
With Gerald Gibbs on organ and Leonard King, Jr. on drums,
plus others as the opportunity arrises: trumpeter Keyon Harrold (3
tracks), guitarists Bruce Edwards or Brandon Ross (3 tracks each),
vocalist Miche Braden (2 cuts; King sings a third). Carter plays
soprano sax (1 cut), baritone (3), alto (4), and tenor (7 cuts, 2
of those also on baritone). Gibbs and King wrote one piece each;
otherwise all covers, only Ellington's "Come Sunday" (leading into
trad's "Tis the Old Ship of Zion" for a little sacred mystique)
done much; and while Jack McDuff's "Walking the Dog" is the real
spiritual center here, Carter also takes his blues refracted through
Julius Hemphill and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Braden's boisterous
vocal on "The Walking Blues" comes as a surprise four cuts in,
then no more vocals until the gospel sideline at 10-11. Nothing
wrong with the vocals -- more wouldn't have been unwelcome -- but
what you really want to hear is the saxman busting loose, which
doesn't happen often enough but is mighty wondrous when it does.
- Brian Charette: Learning to Count (2009 ,
Organ player, fourth album since 2000 (according to
AMG and his website, although the latter doesn't list them, and the
former doesn't include one I've heard from 2008 (Missing Floor)
and a newer Music for Organ Sextette that I have a CDR of. This
is a trio, with Mike DiRubbo on alto sax and Jochen Rückert on drums --
same idea as DiRubbo's Chronos earlier this year (which had Rudy
Royston on drums), the writing credits favoring the leader in both
cases (with this one adding three covers: Wayne Shorter, John Lewis,
Steve Winwood). DiRubbo's always a terrific mainstream player, so the
main difference seems to be in the writing: Charette is wonderfully
restrained, nudging the pieces forward without showboating let alone
wallowing in soul jazz clichés. I hear a lot of organ records and
usually wonder: why bother? This works.
- Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères
(2005 , TUM):
Drummer, b. 1939 in Brooklyn, parents (mother at least)
from Haiti; has a couple dozen records since 1971 as leader, well over
100 side credits (The Hawk Relaxes seems to have been his first,
but more typical was his work in Cecil Taylor's late-1960s groups). The
Haitian connection here includes guitarist Alix Pascal and percussionist
Frisner Agustin. The others are Lisle Atkinson on bass and Hamiett Bluiett
on baritone sax: the latter's gruff but muffled sound is crucial, with
everyone else just adding to the seduction.
- Roger Davidson Quintet: Brazilian Love Song
(2009 , Soundbrush):
Pianist, b. 1952 in France but grew up in New
York; has 11 albums since 2000's Mango Tango, all keyed to
Latin rhythms, the majority Brazilian. Silly of me to have ignored
this for a year now -- the title on the spine, the cartoonish cover
in the Brazilian national colors, the "30 years of Brazilian music"
blurb seemed unappealing, but the fine print suggests otherwise:
Davidson (whose name isn't visible on the spine) himself has been
more and more impressive each time out, well on his way to becoming
a Latin pianist-of-all-trades like Dick Hyman. Also turns out that
instead of recycling moldy bossa novas, he composed all the music --
dating some pieces as far back as 1978, so he's recycling his files.
Also Pablo Aslan produced -- the Argentine bassist, I've never seen
him associated with a dud project yet. The Quintet is Brazilian
where it counts -- Paulo Braga on drums and Marivaldo Dos Santos
on percussion -- and Aaron Heick's sax doesn't let anyone get too
- Dead Cat Dance: Chance Episodes (2010 , Cuneiform):
Basically, a saxophone quartet (Matt Steckler, Jared
Sims, Terry Goss, Charlie Kohlhase) plus bass (Dave Ambrosio)
and drums (Bill Carbone). Fourth album since 1998. The quartet
are just creditd with saxophones and woodwinds, and I don't
know them well enough to pick them out from the photo (except
that I figure Kohlhase for the baritone). Steckler wrote all
the pieces, liner notes too. I've always had problems with the
monophonic tones and limited harmonics of sax quartets, but the
bass seems to tie them all together, as well as pick up the pace,
and this group is really impressive when they pick up a full head
- Armen Donelian: Leapfrog (2010 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1950 in New York, parents Armenian, his father barely
escaping from the massacres in Ottoman Turkey. Has a dozen albums
since 1980, a few more side credits, notably with Billy Harper and
Mongo Santamaria. Postbop quintet with Marc Mommaas (tenor sax),
Mike Moreno (guitar), Dean Johnson (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey
(drums). Mommaas is a strong figure here, able both to slip in
behind the piano and bull his way to the front. Still, the cut I
like best is "Mexico" where he lays out, letting the guitar sway
gently around the piano, a lush tropical breeze.
- Dave Douglas: Rare Metals [Greenleaf Portable Series
Volume 1] (2011, Greenleaf Music):
One of three new albums, each
with different groups pursuing different facets of Douglas's art.
This is Brass Ecstasy -- four brass horns, Vincent Chancey on French
horn, Luis Bonilla on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Douglas
on trumpet, along with Nasheet Waits on drums. Third recent album
by the group. Five originals, starting with a piece called "Town
Hall" that brings the old brass band era back to life, but even
more striking is the lone cover, a decidedly ascetic "Lush Life."
- Dave Douglas/So Percussion: Bad Mango [Greenleaf Portable Series
Volume 3] (2011, Greenleaf Music):
So Percussion is
a quartet -- Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Eric
Beach -- postclassical in orientation (Steve Reich's Drumming
was their second album), although like Kronos Quartet they like to
circulate. Ten or more albums since 2004. This is their most obvious
jazz connection, and their group dynamics are so tight I'm tempted
to call this a trumpet-percussion duo. Good spot for Douglas to let
it fly, and the opening "One More News" makes good of that.
- Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet: Frog Leg Logic
(2011, Clean Feed):
Plays alto sax, soprano sax, and flute, leading a quartet
with James Zollar (trumpet), Hank Roberts (cello), and Michael Sarin
(drums). Strong interplay for most of the way -- the flute, of course,
is the weak link. Zollar usually lurks in the background, but when he
gets a solo shot he reminds you how underrated he is.
- Harris Eisenstadt: September Trio (2010 , Clean Feed):
Drummer, has tended lately to rig his records to emphasize his
compositions rather than his position. Trio includes Ellery Eskelin
(tenor sax) and Angelica Sanchez (piano), so this lacks the drive and
connectivity that a bassist should add: it runs a bit slow, muted, but
spacious. Been hearing a lot from Eskelin lately, and I'm afraid that
I've fallen uncritically in love with all of it. The pianist holds up
her end too.
- Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble: Inana (2011, Pi):
Trumpet player, b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical
music at DePaul before wandering into jazz. Third album since 2003.
Like several other prominent second generation hyphenated-Americans,
he looks back to his ancestral land for a unique angle on jazz --
the two rivers, of course, the Tigris and Euphrates. Sextet mixes
Arab classicists with avant-jazzbos -- Ole Mathisen (tenor/soprano
sax), Zafer Tawil (oud, perussion), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), Carlo
DeRosa (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) -- for a dense, somber sound.
- FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (2005 , TUM):
Name comes from a fortunate combination of initials: Joe Fonda
(bass), Barry Altschul (drums), and Billy Bang (violin), whose death
last year makes this all the more precious. Group did a previous
album together, in 2003, Transforming the Space (CIMP) -- a
record I like at least as much as this one.
- Agustí Fernández: El Laberint de la Memória
(2010 , Mbari Musica):
Pianist, b. 1954 in Spain; AMG credits him
with 12 albums, Discogs with 24, his own website claims 50 but
doesn't list that many -- earliest one listed is 1987. This would
be his eighth solo album, with a large percentage of the rest duos.
Nothing fancy here, but every step seems meticulously thought out,
precise and evocative.
- Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (2011, Yellow Sound
Trombonist, based in New York (since 1993), fourth
album since 2005. First was a daunting tribute, Plays the Music
of Albert Mangelsdorff. This is a trio with John Hebert and
Michael Sarin, the sort of thing that puts the horn constantly on
the spot. And he proves to be as inventive as his German mentor,
while avoiding the squawk and whine that suggested to me horses
- Erik Friedlander: Bonebridge (2011, Skipstone):
Cellist, more than a dozen albums since 1995; not sure that you can
find anyone else in jazz history who's done more notable music with
the instrument. Inevitably, cello suggests chamber music, with a
focus on composition feathered out with multiple strings, which is
what you get here with: Doug Wamble (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass),
and Mike Sarin (drums).
- Dennis González/João Paulo: So Soft Yet
(2010 , Clean Feed):
Duets, González on trumpet and cornet, Paulo (full name:
João Paulo Esteves Da Silva) on acoustic and electric piano, also
accordion. They did this once before, in 2009's Scape Grace,
but this works better, partly because Paulo's rotation keeps it
from settling into a rut, but mostly charm and intimacy.
- Eric Harland: Voyager: Live by Night (2008 ,
Drummer, b. 1978, first album under his own name (looks
like it was originally released in 2010 on Space Time in France;
Sunnyside picks a lot of its records off French labels), but has
a long list of credits since 1997. He wrote all but the last two
pieces here: one by Sam Rivers, and a four-part thing by pianist
Taylor Eigsti. Band includes Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Julian
Lage (guitar), Eigsti (piano), and Harish Raghavan (bass). Lage
is often dazzling, and Smith has a standout night. Drummer too.
- Roy Haynes: Roy-Alty (2011, Dreyfus):
not of the first generation of bebop drummers but came hot on
their heels with a Zelig-like knack for being everywhere you'd
want to be: with Lester Young at the Royal Roost in 1948, with
Charlie Parker at St. Nick's in 1951, with Bud Powell and Stan
Getz and Wardell Gray and Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins -- all
by 1955; with Sarah Vaughan at Mister Kelly's in 1957, with
Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot in 1958, on Introducing
Nat Adderley. Eventually he went on to cut 30-some albums
under his own name, winning Downbeat polls in categories
like Jazz Artist of the Year. He'd be considered a grey eminence
now, except he keeps his pate shaved and no one in history ever
has looked more fit at 86. Roy Hargrove and Chick Corea get a
"featuring" sticker. The booklet also spotlights what he calls
the Fountain of Youth Band: Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Martin
Bejerano (piano), and David Wong (bass). Not sure if Corea
plays beyond his two featured spots. Hargrove is featured on
6 of 10 tracks, Shaw is impressive throughout, and the closer
(McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance") adds Marcus Strickland for a
blow out. Presumably it's Haynes talking the intro to "Tin
Tin Deo" (with Roberto Quintero's extra percussion) -- who
else can plausibly claim to have discovered Chano Pozo?
Big, bright, a celebration.
- Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the
South Bank (2009 , Smalltown Superjazz, 2CD):
Hebden does laptronica under the name Four Tet, and is something
of a star as those things go. Somehow he hooked up with Reid --
a drummer, had a couple of obscure but quite good 1970s avant
records, plus a resume that includes Motown, James Brown, and
Fela Kuti; sadly, Reid died in 2010, a couple years into a very
productive comeback. Gustafsson is a Norwegian saxophonist --
plays tenor and baritone, not specified which here but sounds
like mostly bari -- has a group called the Thing, plays a lot
with Ken Vandermark and a little with Sonic Youth. He can be
unbearably noisy, but holds to an interesting range here,
adding soulful depth to the blips and beats. Length 82:55.
- Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (2009 , Clean Feed):
Drummer-led quintet, with Oscar Noriega (alto sax,
clarinet, bass clarinet), Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Terrence
McManus (guitar), Kermit Driscoll (acoustic bass, electric bass
guitar). I assumed this would flesh out Hemingway's superb duos
with Eskelin and McManus so I latched onto their flights, but if
anything this is more tightly bound to the beat -- deliriously
so in the reggae-inspired "Backabacka" but also in the slower,
more muted pieces that preceded it, seeming to draw the record
down when really they were setting it up.
- Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald: Live at Kassiopeia (1987
, NoBusiness, 2CD):
New old music from two dead guys,
likely to be missed if you have any idea who they are, and all the
more poignant for being so intimate. Kowald is the German
bassist of the 20th century, always intriguing, not least solo --
his solo Was Da Ist is a Penguin Guide crown album. Hemphill
was an alto saxophonist, best known for his harmonic explorations
with the World Saxophone Quartet and Five Chord Stud, which
left him underappreciated as a solo player. First disc here is all
solo: three 6-8 minute ones by Hemphill, a 32:20 by Kowald. They
feel like studies, something slightly above practice, nice examples
of each one's art. Second disc brings them together in three duos,
where they start out distinct and gradually merge. I'm sentimental
enough to be tempted to rate this higher, but Hemphill plays a lot
of soprano sax here, I haven't compared this to such similar fare
as his duo Live in New York with cellist Abdul K. Wadud,
and I'm unlikely to return to the solos -- although Kowald's is
probably a better intro than the daunting Wa Das Ist.
- Ideal Bread: Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy
(2009 , Cuneiform):
Quartet: Josh Sinton (baritone sax), Kirk
Knuffke (trumpet), Reuben Radding (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums).
Sinton is the only one I don't run into often, but he's not a total
stranger, and seems to be the leader here. Second group album.
Transposing Lacy's soprano lines to baritone gives them a new feel,
but nothing with Lacy is ever overly familiar, so this feels fresh
- Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio: Clustrophy
(2009 , TUM):
Saxophonist (alto, baritone, soprano), b. 1978 in
Lapinjärvi, Finland. I count six albums with his name up front
since 2006, plus group albums with Gourmet, Delirium, and Triot
(Sudden Happiness was a Jazz CG pick in 2004). Three reed
players here -- Innanen, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Daniel Erdmann,
playing various saxes, clarinets, and toy versions thereof. At
center is Seppo Kantonen on synth, much splashier than electric
piano or organ, plus there's Joonas Riippa on drums and, going
along with the toy fascination, pocket trumpet. The splattershot
noise gives you a quick jolt, especially right out of the box.
Doesn't all live up to that, but breaks out in entertaining ways.
- Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (2011,
Alto saxophonist, second trio album, this one with
Adam Lane (bass) and Jason Nazary (drums), which seem to be his
forte -- much more impressive than his duo with Matthew Shipp,
let alone his Little Women group album. Intense, passionate free
sax, although he's also expressive when he slows down. Dedicates
this to George Clinton, but you won't find much on the one.
- Dave King Trucking Company: Good Old Light (2011, Sunnyside):
Drummer, best known in the Bad Plus piano trio, but
also in the notable Minneapolis group, Happy Apple. Second album
with his name up front, the first his Indelicate solo, this
very much a group album: Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on tenor
sax, Erik Fratzke (of Happy Apple) on electric guitar, and Adam
Linz on upright bass. Densely rhythmic and upbeat -- reminds me
a bit of Claudia Quintet (with Speed) only in a deeper groove.
- Lisa Kirchner: Something to Sing About
(2010 , Albany):
Singer; website says songwriter (1 song plus
some lyrics here), and actress (evidently some theatre and TV,
but nothing in IMDB). Describes father as "a contemporary
classical composer, conductor and pianist" -- must be Leon
Kirchner (1919-2009) -- and mother as "a coloratura soprano
who had performed classical lieder and show tunes in New York
supper clubs." One cached broken link identifies a Lisa (Beth)
Kirchner as b. 1953 in Los Angeles, which is possibly right.
Fourth album since 2000. Don't know about the others, but
aside for her one original, the other seventeen songs here
start with music from a recent classical composer -- Charles
Ives is the oldest by far, followed by Aaron Copland, with
Wynton Marsalis the youngest (again, by far; I'd have to go
back and recheck to be sure, but William Schimmel, b. 1946,
who also plays accordion here, is probably second-youngest).
Some pieces came with lyrics, but for most of them she adds
a found text -- William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and K.D.
Lang are some sources I recognize -- or writes her own. The
band usually includes Sherman Irby (alto sax, flute), Schimmel
(accordion), Joel Fan or Xavier Davis (piano), Dwayne Burno
or Vicente Archer (bass), Ron Jackson (guitar), and Willie
Jones III (drums). Described like that, I don't see how this
can possibly work, yet it does. The songs have no whiff of
aria or lieder, the voice is on the sly side real divas never
entertain, the band evens out the rough edges, with Schimmel's
accordion nudging the songs into shape and Irby a delight.
- The Landrus Kaleidoscope: Capsule (2010 , BlueLand):
Brian Landrus, b. 1978, plays baritone sax, bass clarinet,
bass flute, has a couple previous records: the first on Cadence
planted him in free jazz territory, but two on Blueland have backed
off. This one is effectively a quiet storm outing, lots of soft low
sounds with swooning guitar (Nir Felder), backed with keyb (Michael
Cain), acoustic bass (Matthew Parish), and drums (Rudy Royston).
- Jeff Lederer: Sunwatcher (2010 , Jazzheads):
Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, clarinet), name I recognize (looks like
mostly from Matt Wilson records, although I see a couple others in
his credits list), first album. Quartet with Jamie Saft (piano, organ),
Buster Williams (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Wrote 5 of 8, covering
Duke Pearson, Paul Bley, and trad. ("Break Bread Together"). Charges
hard from the box and bowls you over in that mode, hard to resist.
Less so the softer horns and slower stuff, but the band is so good
they keep him together even there.
- Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert
(2010 , ECM, 2CD):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938,
built both a popular and critical rep in the late 1960s with a group
that introduced Keith Jarrett. Nothing in my database for him from
1969-89 when ECM picked him up -- AMG lists 9 records 1970-83, two
with four stars, most with two, and has an empty gap from 1983-89.
Since joining ECM he's been on a roll, especially lately with this
quartet: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland
(drums). Farantouri is a Greek vocalist, b. 1947, has 30 or more
albums, and a political record that sent her into exile during the
military coup years -- I've seen reference to her as the "Joan Baez
of Greece" but caution against taking that seriously. Live concert,
spread over two discs. Took me a while to acclimate to her voice,
which is deep and striking (the Greek Abbey Lincoln?). A couple
instrumentals let the band shine on the first disc, but by the
second it all meshes.
- Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (2011, Clean Feed):
Guitarist, from Portugal, has a couple records under his own name,
more as Afterfall and Humanization 4tet, and he's shown up on the
side of other very solid records. Everything he does is worthwhile,
but he's mostly complemented saxophonists (like Rodrigo Amado) --
his 2009 trio What Is When seemed like a bit less, but this
trio with Robert Landferman on bass and Christian Lilinger on drums
settles it. His use of feedback gives this an extra charge. Also,
Lilinger does exactly what you want in a free drummer.
- Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11 ,
Music & Arts, 3CD):
Probably better known for his books
and compilations -- the 9-CD American Pop: An Audio History From
Minstrel to Mojo and the 36-CD That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz
History plus their separately published books, with a new 36-CD
blues series in the works -- than for his original music. I first
discovered him when Francis Davis tabbed his first two self-released
1990-92 albums as Pick Hits in an earlier edition of Jazz Consumer
Guide -- critical admiration that continues as Davis wrote liner
notes for this release. Based in Maine, mostly cut with a local
group occasionally spiced with outside star power -- Marc Ribot,
Matthew Shipp, Roswell Rudd, Lewis Porter -- this digs deeper than
I could have imagined into blues form, blues notes, and blues psyche,
turning every aspect over and inside out. Lowe plays alto, C melody,
and tenor sax, and guitar. While most of the guitar is played by
Ray Suhy or Marc Ribot, Lowe especially stands out on "Williamsburg
Blues" -- his guitar with Shipp's piano. Three discs means some
sprawl, comparable I'd say to 69 Love Songs in that neither
the theme nor the invention ever wears thin. (Well, maybe a bit in
the middle disc.)
- Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (2008 , ACT):
Alto saxophonist, grew up in US, picked up his Indian roots on the
rebound, as is so often the case. Cites Charlie Parker as influence,
of course, but also Grover Washington, David Sanborn, the Brecker
Brothers, and the Yellowjackets -- guess you had to be there, but he
does try to fold his more complex ideas back into neatly accessible
packages. Also credited with laptop here. Band includes electric
guitar, electric bass, and drums, giving him a slicked back fusion
sound, but also "Anand" Anantha Krishnan on mridangam and kanjira,
reminding you how he's different.
- Mambo Legends Orchestra: ¡Ten Cuidao! Watch Out!
(2011, Zoho, 2CD):
Mostly long-time veterans of Tito Puente's big
band -- John Rodriguez, Jose Madera, Mitch Frohman, Frankie Vazquez,
Cita Rodriguez, Marco Bermudez are singled out on the back cover.
Lots of punch in the horns, rhythm up the wazoo, Vazquez's vocals.
It's a bit much by the end, but quite a thrill along the way.
- Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live
From Jazz at Lincoln Center (2011, Reprise, CD+DVD):
guitarist picked the tunes, anticipating that this would turn out
to be a jazz album based on blues rather than a blues album with
some extra horns. I suspect his early exposure was to British trad
stalwarts -- Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Humphrey Lyttelton and their
kin -- although he's enough of an Americaphile that he must know
when he's treading on Louis Armstrong, and maybe even George Lewis.
Marsalis arranged the pieces and went for a King Oliver front line --
two trumpets (Marcus Printup), trombone (Chris Crenshaw), clarinet
(Victor Goines) -- forgoing the tuba for Carlos Henriquez's bass,
adding Don Vappie's banjo, Dan Nimmer on piano, and Ali Jackson on
drums and washboard. Clapton, in turn, brought along his old keyb
player, Chris Stainton. Clapton has often been nicked for his lack
of blues voice, but he's plenty strong here -- while managing to
duck the last three songs, one going to Crenshaw, the last two to
guest Taj Mahal. Can't claim that the DVD is worth the extra $6-9
it will cost you: it's a straight concert film, a bit more patter
and some shots of rehearsing, all of which helps.
- Pat Martino: Undeniable: Live at Blues Alley
(2009 , High Note):
Guitarist, b. Pat Azzara in Philadelphia 1944;
cut mostly soul jazz albums 1966-76; suffered a brain aneurysm which
caused amnesia, but was able to cut an album again in 1987 and has
worked steadily since 1994. I've rarely been impressed by his return --
great story, of course, wish him well and all -- but this one seems
to be his calling: an organ quartet, with Tony Monaco on the Hammond,
Eric Alexander on tenor sax, and Jeff Watts on drums. Monaco could
be a little less soupy, and Alexander could be more boisterous, but
the guitarist is always at the top of his game.
- Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur: Mojave (2011,
Brazilian bassist and Israeli guitarist, both New York
based, both with such substantial discographies I won't bother
looking them up. In smaller front cover print: Victor Lewis
(drums) and Café (percussion) -- don't know the latter but he's
invaluable here. Mostly a Brazilian program (Jobim, Pixinginha,
Baden Powell) with two pieces by Ben-Hur, two by Matta, one by
Lewis, one by Burt Bacharach. Nice to focus on Matta's bass for
once, the guitar adding tasteful highlights and a little icing.
- Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans
Song) (2009 , NoBusiness):
Another case where one's
reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was to keep doing what one does
anyway, although one could credit the tragedy with moderating McPhee,
keeping his tone in check, somber and studied. He is brilliant both
on alto sax and pocket trumpet. Zerang drums along, accenting and
encouraging, doing all he needs to do.
- Brad Mehldau & Kevin Hays: Modern Music (2011,
Piano duo, actually just the front men appearing above
the title for Patrick Zimmerli, below the title and "composed and
arranged by" but in larger type. Zimmerli is a saxophonist, b.
1968, has five albums from 1998 (six if you count this one). He
been working the boundaries between jazz and classical, and has
a number of compositions commissioned for classical groups. Here
he wrote 4 of 9 pieces, arranged an original each by Mehldau and
Hays, plus ones by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Ornette Coleman.
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Live at Scullers Jazz Club (2010 ,
Pianist, b. 1970 in Kobe, Japan; moved to
US in 1996 with a Berklee scholarship. Fourth album since 2001, a
trio with Greg Loughman on bass and Scott Goulding on drums. Three
originals, five covers starting with "This Could Be the Start of
Something" and including Lou Reed's "Who Loves the Sun." Most
convincing at high speed -- dazzling might be the word.
- Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon (2011, Thirsty Ear):
Trumpet player, from Norway, started out in Masqualero with Arild
Andersen, emerged under his own name on a couple albums on ECM with
drum machines: the first flush of what came to be called jazztronica,
which led to a merger with Matthew Shipp's jazz-DJ synthesis label.
Erland Dahlen handles the percussion this time, favoring log drums
and steel drums over electronics, with Stian Westerhus plugging his
guitars, keybs, pedals, and toys in -- all fitting background for
Molvaer's trumpet, but it mostly leans atmospheric. Exception is
"Recoil," which cranks up the volume for a rush of intensity.
- David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole:
En Español (2010 , Motéma):
More inspired by than based
on Cole's 1958-62 Spanish-language records, En Español and
More En Español. Cole took backing tracks from a small Cuban
group and dubbed in his sweet vocals -- one story is that the 1958
revolution prevented him from finishing the album in Havana. Murray
is at least equally circuitous, recording his Cuban band in Buenos
Aires with tango singer Daniel Melingo -- as rough as Cole is smooth --
then dubbing in strings in Portugal, mixing the album in France, and
mastering it in the UK. Even with Melingo on board, the vocals are
trimmed way back, leaving more room for the sax, as imposing as
- Nanette Natal: Sweet Summer Blue (2011, Benyo Music):
Singer, plays some acoustic guitar, b. 1945 in Brooklyn, eighth album
since 1971. Not much band here -- a lead guitarist, bass, drums, and
violin, but mostly they stay quiet. She tones her technique down quite
a bit too: could pass for a folksinger here, earnest and credible,
such a strong, distinctive singer she no longer needs to flaunt it.
- Nordeson Shelton: Incline (2011, Singlespeed Music):
Alto sax-drums duo -- drums by Kjell Nordeson, sax by Aram Shelton.
Shelton passed through Chicago on his way to his current base in
Oakland, which sharpened his instincts for developing a distinct
tone and style, but that's never been more clear than in this basic
context. Nordeson's credits include Mats Gustafsson (AALY Trio) and
Paul Rutherford, Atomic and Exploding Customer.
- Sean Nowell: Stockholm Swingin' (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973, third album, cut live at
the Glenn Miller Café in Stockholm with what appears to be a local
crew: Fredrik Olsson (guitar), Leo Lindberg (piano), Lars Ekman
(bass), and Joe Abba (drums), with three tunes credited to the
band members, one to Nowell, one Swedish trad, plus Ellington,
Strayhorn, and Tyner. Nowell is a mainstream guy who flexes a lot
of muscle, turning this into a high speed, high volume romp.
- Michael Pedicin: Ballads . . . Searching for Peace
(2011, Jazz Hut):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947, from Philadelphia,
father played sax on some early rock and roll records in the 1950s.
Tenth album, cites Coltrane for his ballad style, comes out strong
and clear and preternaturally calm. With John Valentino on guitar,
alternating pianists (Barry Miles and Andy Lalasis), bass and drums.
- Houston Person: So Nice (2011, HighNote):
think of any tenor saxophonists who have aged so gracefully. Age
76 when this was cut. Interesting that he's added a couple Arbors
artists to sit in on a few tracks: Warren Vaché (4 cuts, including
first three) and Howard Alden (5 cuts, including first two). They
help, and I'd love to hear Person and Vaché cover a full album,
but the really nice stuff is when they drop down to a quartet --
John Di Martino (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Lewis Nash (drums).
- Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 (2010 ,
First volume seemed archival, spanning 28 years
with scattered groups, not that the tenor sax changed much over
time. This one sticks with three recent concerts, pulling one
cut from each of two October, 2010 shows to sandwich four cuts
from Rollins' 80th birthday bash on Sept. 10, 2010. The party
cuts shuttled guest stars in and out: Christian McBride, Roy
Haynes, Jim Hall (one cut with Rollins introducing but laying
out), Ornette Coleman (also one cut, introduced enigmatically),
and Roy Hargrove (two cuts). I'm tempted to complain about the
talk, but he's always gracious, presumably even more so in his
Japanese during the closer ("St. Thomas" -- only thing wrong
there is that at 2:50 it's way too short). Also about dilution,
but Hargrove makes a fine foil for "Rain Check," and I've yet
to fully puzzle out Coleman's solo. But why complain? As Rollins
himself said of Coleman Hawkins, it's impossible to think of him
without feeling joy.
- Daniel Rosenthal: Lines (2010 , American Melody):
Trumpet player, based in Boston, studied with Steve Lacy at New England
Conservatory, has played in Either/Orchestra since 2006 (which got him
in on their Ethiopian kick). First album. Mostly a two-horn quartet,
with Rick Stone's alto sax slipping and sliding around him, cutting a
clean harmonic path. Four tracks add Wes Corbett on banjo -- the closer,
"Standing," is mostly just the two of them, and especially striking.
- Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (2010 , Playscape):
Pianist, b. 1959, one of those names I recognize from
Concord's Maybeck Recital Hall Series but never bothered
to investigate further. Fourteenth album since 1989, a trio with
Noriko Ueda on bass and Quincy Davis on drums, all standards, all
ones I should know instantly but are reworked so thoroughly I
only catch occasional glimpses. Jumps right at you from the git
go; even when they slow down you're never quite sure what they're
up to. In short, the sort of invention you rarely find in a piano
trio, where everything old is new again.
- John Scofield: A Moment's Peace (2011, Emarcy):
Guitarist, was a key figure in the 1980s and up through Groove
Elation and Quiet in 1994-96 with his fluid style and
fascination with funk grooves, but hasn't done much of interest
since. This is a back-to-basics quartet, with Larry Goldings on
piano and organ, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums.
Temper changes depending on Goldings' keyboard choice, but that
highlights both sides of Scofield's style. His best album since
his heyday: had it come out in 1998 we might complain that he's
slowing down, but now it feels like a welcome second breath.
- Karl Seglem: Ossicles (2005-10 , Ozella):
Tenor saxophonist, from Norway, 27th album since 1988 (AMG lists
15; also misspells his name two different ways in their brief
bio). Draws on folk sources, playing against hardanger fiddle,
incorporating various goat horns (one credit for antilope horn
[sic?]), with a bit of African mbira.
- SFE: Positions & Descriptions: Simon H. Fell Composition
No. 75 (2011, Clean Feed):
Not sure what SFE stands for --
Simon Fell Ensemble? (Having a bad eye day, and the microprint on
the foldout is all blurred.) Fell is a bassist, b. 1959 in England,
has a couple dozen albums since 1985, some dedicated to numbered
compositions. He's someone anyone who's spent much time perusing
The Penguin Guide will know about, but this is the first of
his records I've actually come across. Group has 15 members plus
conductor Clark Rundell, offering a bit of everything: flute, two
clarinets, alto and bari sax, trumpet, tuned percussion, harps,
piano, guitar, violin, theremin, bass, drums, electronics. Wish
I had a better sense of how this fits in. Doesn't strike me as
cluttered or chaotic, but sure is complex.
- Side A: A New Margin (2010 , Clean Feed):
Free jazz trio: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Håvard Wiik
(piano), Chad Taylor (drums). First group album, although Wiik is
in Vandermark's Jimmy Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group and they
have five or so albums together, and Taylor has been bouncing
around Chicago's underground long enough he must have bumped into
Vandermark somewhere. Writing credits are evenly distributed.
Given recording date omits year, but the most likely October is
last year. Vandermark takes a clarinet feature with remarkable
grace and poise, but he mostly races through fast changes, loud
and rough yet they seem remarkably complete and coherent.
- Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets
(2007 , TUM):
For such an uncompromising avant-gardist, Smith
has been remarkably catholic recently, working in all sorts of combos
and forms. No mbira here (although it's a song title): trio consists
of Min Xiao-Fen, from Nanjing, China, who plays pipa, and Pheroan
akLaff on drums. Min has several albums -- traditional Chinese and
classical, I gather. She provides an exotic twist here, but doesn't
settle into a consistent role, so she mostly serves to set Smith
- Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique - I (2011, Pi):
b. 1980, first caught my attention in bands with Vijay Iyer and/or
Steve Lehman, especially Fieldwork. Released a composer's album
in 2007, That/Not, which got a lot of attention (number two
on Francis Davis's year-end list) -- I had to go to Rhapsody for
a listen, was duly impressed, but couldn't spend much time with it.
Between 2002-06 he composed a set of 41 compositions, ten of which
appear here, in a quintet setting with Loren Stillman (alto sax),
Todd Neufeld (guitar), John Escreet (keyboards), and Chris Tordini
(bass). The pieces slip and slide around the free rhythm, not easy
and never settling into any sort of norm.
- Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (2011, Delmark):
Bass clarinetist, b. 1976 in Long Island, studied at
Bennington (Charles Gayle, Milford Graves) and Michigan, wound
up in Chicago where he hooked into one of Ken Vandermark's less
successful projects (Bridge 61). Has three trio albums as Locksmith
Isidore, each step showing growth, and a Solo that ain't
bad for that sort of thing. Adds a second, sharper horn to get
a quartet -- Keefe Jackson on tenor sax and contrabass clarinet --
along with Joshua Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. The
sax works with and against the bass clarinet.
- Joan Stiles: Three Musicians (2011, Oo-Bla-Dee):
The other two, their names flanking Stiles' somewhat less boldly,
are saxophonist Joel Frahm (tenor, one cut on soprano) and drummer
Matt Wilson. Stiles is a pianist, moved from classical to jazz in
1986 at Manhattan School of Music, and contiues to teach there and
at the New School. Third album, the group here stripped down from
the sextet she used on the remarkable Hurly Burly. Two
originals, not counting "In the Sunshine of My Funny Valentine's
Love" which is credited to Rodgers/Clapton/Bach. One from Mary
Lou Williams, who is more than a research interest, followed by
two Monks, which set up the remarkable interpolation of "Brother,
Can You Spare a Dime?/Can't Buy Me Love." Frahm is superb, of
course, in etching out the themes Stiles elaborates.
- Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy: Volume 1 & 2
(2011, Strick Muzik, 2CD):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1979, has consistently
impressed at least since 2006 -- I haven't the two 2001-03 FSNTs, which
AMG doesn't think much of -- always seeming on the edge of breaking
something big wide open. I guess this is it: it's certainly big, with
one trio disc -- the second, the Ben Williams on bass and twin brother
E.J. Strickland on drums -- the other adding pianist David Bryant. The
quartet is spread out a bit more, and thinner as Strickland switches
to alto for 5 of 10 tracks, and soprano on three -- plays tenor on four,
the main reason the totals don't add up is that he plays everything
(including clarinet and bass clarinet) on "Virgo." Probably safe to
rank him the best soprano among his generation of tenor players -- it
seems like an organic extension of his tenor rather than something he
copped from Coltrane or Shorter (or Marsalis or Potter). Still, the
first disc won me over; the second just kicked my ass.
- John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Workshop - April '69
(1969 , Cuneiform, 2CD):
The middle of a very rich period
for the 25-year-old soprano/baritone saxophonist, coming out of
Mike Westbrook's group, leading The Trio (with Barre Phillips and
Stu Martin), his first album under his own name just out and his
big band Tales of the Algonquin in the near future, and
(this and) other projects falling through the cracks. His NDR
workshop assembled four reeds (Surman, Alan Skidmore on tenor sax
and flute, Ronnie Scott on tenor sax, Mike Osborne on alto sax),
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths
and Eric Kleinschuefer), piano (Fritz Pauer), bass (Harry Miller),
and drums (Alan Jackson). Five pieces: the two featuring Surman's
soprano are irresistible vamps, as is the closer after they get
past their everyone-raise-hell patch at the beginning. The slower
pieces have more trouble gaining traction, although there are
crackling solos here and there. The DVD is a straight b&w
take of the album -- probably a rehearsal but close to the final
- André Vasconcellos: 2 (2009 , Adventure Music):
Bassist, from Brazil; second album, following one in 2004 called
Observatorio. Wrote 7 of 8 songs, the odd one out by guitarist
Ricardo Vasconcellos (relationship undetermined). Mostly quintet,
with tenor saxophonist Josue Lopez making a big impression, Allen
Pontes on drums, David Feldman or Renato Fonseca on piano, Ricardo
Vasconcellos or Torcuato Mariano on guitar. Strong pulse from the
bass driving the flow, prime solo spots on piano and guitar. No
samba, no choro, more like postbop but organic.
- Vicious World: Plays the Music of Rufus Wainwright
(2010 , Spinaround):
Leaders of this project are saxophonist
Aaron Irwin (b. 1978 in Decatur, IL; has a couple FSNT albums; arranged
7 of 11 songs here) and trombonist Matthew McDonald (no idea; arranged
the other 4 songs). The group also includes guitar (Sebastian Noelle),
bass (Thomson Kneeland), drums (Danny Fischer), violin (Eliza Cho),
and cello (Maria Jeffers). I know a great deal about Wainwright's
parents, all the way down to "Rufus Is a Tit Man," but virtually
nothing of his own music: tried his first album and never went back.
The rock rhythms are straightforward, the guitar and bass structural;
the trombone makes an especially adept lead instrument here, and the
strings add essential texture.
- Larry Vuckovich: Somethin' Special (2011, Tetrachord):
Pianist, b. 1936 in what was then Yugoslavia, moved to San Francisco
in 1951 and developed a taste for bebop. A dozen albums since 1980.
Plays two solos here, a couple of trio cuts, the rest adding Scott
Hamilton and/or Noel Jewkes on tenor sax -- Jewkes takes one cut on
his soprano. A fine pianist, and of course Hamilton is special. Don't
know Jewkes, but aside from the soprano cut it isn't automatically
clear where Hamilton leaves off and he picks up.
- Wellstone Conspiracy: Humble Origins (2010 , Origin):
Second album under this group name, although there was one
previous listing out the four artists: Brent Jensen (soprano sax),
Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums).
The first three write pieces: 5 for Anschell, 2 for Johnson, 1 for
Jensen; the other is a Lennon-McCartney piece, "Fixing a Hole."
Mainstream group, with Jensen continuing to impress on soprano,
and everyone contributing to the seductive flow.
- Kenny Wheeler: One of Many (2006 , CAM Jazz):
With John Taylor and Steve Swallow, as the front cover notes, senior
citizens of the avant-garde, taking it easy but not making it too
easy. Wheeler plays flugelhorn the whole way, as has been his habit
lately. Past 80 now, but this was done a few years back.
- Andrea Wolper: Parallel Lives (2011, Jazzed Media):
Singer, AMG says b. 1950 (but I don't quite believe that), from
California, based in New York, has three albums since 2005, two
books (one called Women's Rights, Human Rights: International
Feminist Perspectives). I had little to say about her previous
album, but looking back at my notes I'm struck by the musicians
she lined up -- Ron Affif on guitar, Victor Lewis on drums, Frank
London on trumpet -- but this time even more so. In fact, her
website has a daring quote from yours truly arguing that any
album with bassist Ken Filiano and/or drummer Michael TA Thompson
"is practically guaranteed to be superb." So she's hired Filiano
and Thompson, added Kris Davis (whom I've praised repeatedly) on
piano, and Michael Howell on guitar -- didn't know him, but he's
a Kansas City guy, has a couple of long-forgotten 1970s records,
was a sideman on Art Blakey's Buhaina and Dizzy Gillespie's
Bahiana in 1973-75. She doesn't push this band very hard,
but they are impossible to fault, with Howell proving to be a
tasty soloist. Wolper wrote 3 of 12 songs, one more than Joni
Mitchell, one from Buffy Sainte-Marie (maybe she is my age), only
a couple safely wedged in the canonical songbook. Her originals
are more interesting than the covers, and while she doesn't blow
you away as a singer, she carries the songs.
- Hans Glawischnig: Jahira (2011 , Sunnyside):
Bassist -- cover pic shows him with a 4-string bass guitar, has a
thick body like an acoustic but no hole in the middle. From Austria,
b. 1970, third album since 2004, plus three dozen or more side credits,
enough with Latin artists to peg him as a specialist (Miguel Zenón,
David Sanchez, Ray Barretto, Dafnis Prieto, Luis Perdomo). This is
a trio with saxophonist Samir Zafir (tenor, soprano) and drummer Eric
Doob. You listen to the spare and elegant sax, but the bass is even
- Edgar Knecht: Good Morning Lilofee (2009 , Ozella):
German pianist, first album as far as I can tell, a trio
plus a couple of guests. Fast rhythm-based pieces, I gather 3/4
German dance tunes and 6/8 Afro-Cuban are the main ingredients.
This kind of snappy piano work seems to be a European exclusive.
Here everyone wants to be Bill Evans, but over there Esbjörn
- Erik Charlston JazzBrasil: Essentially Hermeto
(2010 , Sunnyside): Plays vibraphone and marimba, leading
a group with Ted Nash (saxes, flute, clarinet), Mark Soskin (piano),
Jay Anderson (bass), Rogério Boccato (drums, percussion), and Café
(more percussion). I don't have a sense of Charlston's discography,
in part because AMG seems to have filed some of it elsewhere, but
this is the only album mentioned on Charlston's website. Six (of
eight) songs by Hermeto Pascoal. Nash is a constant delight here,
a much better choice than the usual guitar would have been, but
most of all the leader adds some extra bounce to a perfectly fine
- Ehud Asherie: Upper West Side (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, b. 1979, Israeli (as I recall; his Flash website crashed when
I tried to look at it), based in New York; sixth album since 2007. This
is a duo "with" tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, who gets smaller, skinny
type on the front cover, but carries the standards set, especially from
"Our Love Is Here to Stay" (fourth song) on. At times Asherie reminds
me of one of those pianists who used to accompany silent films, but he
keeps Allen moving, rarely finding a solo spot, as on "My Blue Heaven"
where he raises Fats Domino to a higher energy orbit.
- Doug Webb: Swing Shift (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, has done a lot of studio work but not much under his
own name until he hooked up with this label. Quartet with piano,
bass, and drums; three covers, three originals -- two co-credited
to bassist Stanley Clarke, including one that stretches out to
22:22. Previously thought of him as a mainstream player, but this
seems to be his Saxophone Colossus move.
- Talking Cows: Almost Human (2011 , Morvin/Jazz
Sick): Dutch group: Frans Vermeerssen (tenor sax), Robert Vermeulen
(piano), Don Nijland (double bass), Yonga Sun (drums). Third album,
following 2006's Bovinity and 2008's Dairy Tales. More
mainstream than avant-garde, but their bright good humor links them
to the pop side of perennial jokesters like Breuker and Mengelberg.
- Floratone: Floratone II (2012, Savoy Jazz): File
under guitarist Bill Frisell. All of the pieces are group-credited,
with Matt Chamberlain (drums), Lee Townsend, and Tucker Martine --
the latter two are credited with "production" which ranges from
sax-sounding synths to electronic beats to other disturbances of
the aether, but there are also guests to account for (notably Ron
Miles' trumpet and Eyvind Kang's viola).
- Scott DuBois: Landscape Scripture (2011 ,
Sunnyside): Guitarist, has a couple albums, notably Banshees
(2008). Quartet, with Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, bass clarinet),
Thomas Morgan (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums). If I'm a bit
more ambivalent about this one, it's probably because Ullmann,
uncharacteristically, stays well within the lines.
- Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (2011 , ACT):
From Iyer's liner notes: "today's context sounds like acceleration:
rising inequality, populist revolution, economic crisis, climate
change, moore's law, global connectivity. as the flow of information
gets faster, denser and more intricately networked, our attention
shifts to the larger forms, the slower tempos that gracefully evolve
like the spiral arms of a hurricane." Some issues there: I'd say
information is getting sucked into individual fractal wormholes,
so the more you have the less good it does you, leading not to a
bigger-picture view but to an ever tinier one. For that matter,
those graceful slower tempos are less striking than the frenetic
ones, but this piano trio is all about motion, not just speeding
up and slowing down but dodging in and out.
- Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto: Conversations
(2010 , TUM, 2CD): By no means the only important figures in
Finnish jazz, but the tenor saxphonist and pianist, respectively,
were its first notable figures, their ambitions announced in their
early-1970s group the Serious Music Ensemble -- not that there
wasn't a certain amount of joking even there. Sarmanto's early
1970s groups drove fusion to the edges of avant excess, while his
1990s UMO Orchestra placed bets on jazz tradition. With Sarmanto
and on his own, Aaltonen has always offered a clear and eloquent
voice. And while I'm actually an admirer of his albums with strings
and his frequent forays into flute, I'm pleased to note that he
sticks to tenor sax here, simply accompanied, as soulful as ever.
- Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack: Cracked Refraction (2010
, Porter): Oboe player, also English horn; b. 1971 in Danbury,
CT ("hometown of Charles Ives"), studied at Rice and Michigan, moved
to Chicago in 1996, on to Oakland in 2003. AMG lists eight records
since 2000, not counting "the art-punk monstrosity" Lozenge (and who
knows what else). Started avant-classical, moved into avant-jazz
mostly in his Chicago phase which culminated in the album Wrack,
with violist Jen Clare Paulson and drummer Tim Daisy both then and
now, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Kurt Johnson. Here Anton
Hatwich takes over the bass slot, and Jason Stein's bass clarinet
supplants the trombone. A front line of oboe, bass clarinet, and
viola may sound like a nice chamber group, but as Wrack they break
into all sorts of odd fractures, refracted through the many antipodes
of the group.
- Josh Ginsburg: Zembla Variations (2011 ,
Bju'ecords): Bassist, first album, composed all eight pieces, then
assembled a quartet that could not just play along but add something:
Eli Degibri (tenor and soprano sax), George Colligan (piano, fender
rhodes), and Rudy Royston (drums). Colligan is well established but
rarely plays this fast and free on his own. Degibiri is a young
Israeli with a couple of records, none this impressive.
- Tim Berne: Snakeoil (2011 , ECM): Alto (and
sometimes baritone) saxophonist, a protégé of Julius Hemphill, took
some time finding himself but must now be considered a major figure.
First album as a leader on ECM, although he's appeared as a key
sideman a couple times, most notably on David Torn's Prezens
(2007). Quartet with Oscar Noriega (clarinet, bass clarinet), Matt
Mitchell (piano), and Ches Smith (drums, percussion) -- no bass (or
guitar, the instrument of choice in Berne's trio). The horn interplay
is complex, often scintillating.
- Michael Moore Quintet: Rotterdam (2008 , Ramboy):
With Eric Vloeimans' trumpet complementing the leader's clarinet and
alto sax, Marc van Roon on piano, Paul Berner on bass, and Owen Hart,
Jr., on drums. All Moore compositions, recorded live, runs 67:33. Has
a light and playful air, the horn interplay developing into something
- Michael Moore Quartet: Amsterdam (2010 , Ramboy):
Same lineup as the later Easter Sunday: Harmen Fraanja (piano),
Clemens van der Feen (bass), Michael Vatcher (drums, saw, percussion).
There are stretches where Moore's clarinet scales the heights so deftly
that I find myself thinking this must be the pick of the litter. Then
- Holshouser, Bennink & Moore: Live in NYC
(2009 , Ramboy): Accordion player Will Holshouser's name is
spelled right on the front cover, but misspelled two different ways
on the back. He's the bedrock here, with Michael Moore's reeds
building on his tone, but the oustanding performance here is by
drummer Han Bennink, whose rat-tat-tat sound distinct from the
start and develops into a tour de force.
- Available Jelly: Plushlok, Baarle-Nassau, Set 1
(2007 , Ramboy): Michael Moore's longest-running group, dating back
to an album of that name released in 1984. Moore writes most of the
material -- 5 of 7 here, the covers a trad piece from Myanmar and
a very striking "Isfahan" from Billy Strayhorn -- and releases it on
his label. Sextet, with Tobias Delius (also of ICP) the second sax,
Eric Boeren and Wolter Wierbos the brass, Ernst Glerum on bass, and
Michael Vatcher on drums. The mischief is in the horns, flipping and
flying in all sorts of directions, the harmony all the more humorous.
- Available Jelly: Plushlok, Baarle-Nassau, Set 2
(2007 , Ramboy): Could have been packaged into a 2-CD set
in which case I'd just say, "more is more." Actually, the three
Ellington covers had my hopes up, as did a closer called "Kwela
for Taylor" (whoever that is), but the rowdiness level is down
a bit. Terrific kwela, by the way.
- Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects (2012, Thirsty Ear):
Nominally a piano trio with Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on
drums, although much of this is done solo, and a couple pieces feature
Bisio solos -- deep arco things that contrast with the hard percussive
- Jenny Scheinman: Mischief & Mayhem (2010 ,
self-released): Violinist, has done striking work in the past and
returns to form here. String-focused group, with Nels Cline on guitar,
Todd Sickafoose on bass, and Jim Black on drums. Faster pieces take
off, sometimes with bluegrass and sometimes with rock feel; slower
ones open up and enjoy the atmosphere.
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: Family Ties
(2011 , Leo): Tenor saxophonist from Brazil, released a cluster
of six albums a year or two ago to celebrate twenty years recording:
he had to differentiate those, but here he's back to his core strength,
blowing fierce free sax. The bassist and drummer create an energetic
background, but the focus is rarely away from the sax. Starts with a
bit of kazoo, which doesn't channel enough wind, then raises his game.
After the hard stuff, he's so relaxed he opens up and soars.
- Nobuyasu Furuya Quintet: The Major (2010 ,
NoBusiness): Japanese tenor saxophonist, has a previous album on
Clean Feed, again recorded this in Lisbon with what looks to be a
local group. This one is released in Lithuania on limited edition
(300 copies) vinyl, but I'm listening to a CDR. Impressive depth
in a free jazz setting, much aided by Eduardo Lâla's trombone --
gives the group a New Orleans polyphony feel, but rougher than
- Steve Lehman Trio: Dialect Fluorescent (2011 ,
Pi): Alto saxophonist, studied under Anthony Braxton and Jackie McLean,
leans toward the latter in this sax trio (Matt Brewer on bass, Damion
Reid on drums), closing with McLean's "Mr. E." Also covers Coltrane,
Duke Pearson, and "Pure Imagination" by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony
Newley, mixed in with four (or five) originals.
- David Greenberger/Bangalore: How I Became Uncertain
(2011, Pel Pel): The elderly stories are short and pithy here, their
frequent redundancy and cliché distancing them from Greenberger's
first-person earnestness -- also the stories where the narrator
identifies herself as a woman. Bangalore is a guitar-bass-drums
band, more rock than the others, with Phil Kaplan's guitar sharp
- David Greenberger/Mark Greenberg: Tell Me That Before
(2011, Pel Pel): More conversations from elderly centers, nursing homes,
and suchlike -- a long list of credits is provided this time. Greenberg
provides the background music -- also a long list of credits, including
some bass guitar and drums credited to "DG" and guitar from "PC" (Paul
Cebar). One track I should listen to again makes the point that creative
people think up way more ideas than they can ever use, so the real skill
is figuring out how to budget your time.
- Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara: At Somewhere There
(2009 , Barnyard): Parker, of course, is one of the giant figures
in the English/European avant-garde, with well over 100 records since
1967 -- with Globe Unity Orchestra, followed in 1968 with appearances
on Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun and Spontaneous Music Ensemble's
Karyobin. The latter two are Canadians, playing bass and drums,
part of the free-ish AIMToronto Orchestra, in effect Parker's local
pick-up band for this live, single-cut improv blast. With so many
albums, it's hard to pick and choose, but I like this one because he
sticks to tenor sax and keeps it short (39:56) and simple -- but not
- Piet Verbist: Zygomatik (2010 , Origin):
Bassist, b. 1961 in Belgium; graduated Brussels Conservatory in
1994. First album; doesn't have much of a side discography either,
but wrote all the pieces, leading the album off with a bass intro
a la Mingus. Uses Fender Rhodes instead of piano, and features
tenor sax, adding a bari sax on three cuts. The tenor is split
between Fred Delplancq early on and Matt Renzi on the latter half.
No surprise that Renzi bumps this up to a higher energy level,
adding the edge that makes this album memorable.
- Upper Left Trio: Ulternative (2011 , Origin):
Piano trio -- Clay Giberson (piano, keyboards), Jeff Leonard (basses),
Charlie Doggett (drums) -- fourth album, all write (but Doggett only
gets one song in). Very solid postbop group, nothing spectacular but
I've played this a half dozen times and it's never been less than
- Ellery Eskelin/Dave Ballou/Michael Formanek/Devin Gray: Dirigo
Rataplan (2011 , Skirl): I filed this under drummer Devin
Gray, who wrote all the music and dominates the publicity materials,
but the cover suggests the attribution above. Starts off with a section
that sounds like they're trying to find their key, but once they settle
down this starts to get interesting -- the two horns (Eskelin on tenor
sax, Ballou on trumpet) slipping in and out of synch, the bass and
drums fluttering about.
- Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990 ,
High Note): B. 1928, but aside from the one-shot Portrait of
Sheila in 1962 she didn't really get her career going until
the late 1970s, and still hasn't been given her due -- although
she's spent so much time travelling and teaching since 1990 I'm
not finding dozens of aspiring jazz singers acknowledging their
debts to her. Early on she paid plenty of dues, chasing Bird,
and catching his pianist Duke Pearson. George Russell finally
put her in front of a microphone: I'd put that on the list of
his major accomplishments-- along with synthesizing Cuban be-bop
for Dizzy Gillespie, teaching Miles Davis and John Coltrane how
to use modes, introducing electronics to jazz, and inspiring a
whole generation of Scandinavian jazz stars. I first ran into
her on Roswell Rudd's mid-1970s albums -- the totally forgotten
Numatik Swing Band and the even-more-marvelous Flexible
Flyer -- and followed her through Steve Kuhn's group, into
her solo albums -- many with nothing more than bass fiddle for
accompaniment. This set, recorded "live in concert, circa 1990,"
is one of those, with the former Harvie Swartz on bass. More
standards, less be-bop/vocalese, than her studio albums, which
means more touchstones you think you know but will hear something
new in here. Her control is so remarkable that even though she
breaks up laughing in the Fats Waller medley she never misses a
note. Only in the closer, "I Could Have Danced All Night," does
she finally lose it, a joke you can't help but enjoy.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: In Motion
(2010 , Leo): Third record for this trio in the last year or so,
after Inner Spire (Leo) and All Out (FMR), and they're
all pretty close to interchangeable: Carrier's alto sax always probing
and poignant, his decade-plus relationship to drummer Lambert has long
been telepathic, the Russian pianist something of a mystery, but he's
by now so tightly entwined he's integral to the set.
- Ross Hammond Quartet: Adored (2012, Prescott):
Guitarist, based in California (Sacramento, I think), has five previous
records since 2003, nothing much in his bio. Quartet adds Vinny Golia
(tenor/alto/soprano sax), Stuart Liebig (bass), and Alex Cline (drums),
with producer Wayne Peet on piano for one cut. Not getting anything
from Golia's Nine Winds label, it's a rare treat to hear him elsewhere,
and he puts on a terrific performance here, fierce and lyrical. Harder
to tell about the guitar.
- Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (2011 , Posi-Tone):
Bassist, based in San Francisco, has eleven (or more) albums since 1993,
some with the group Mousetrap. Quintet, with two saxophones -- Steve
Adams, from ROVA on alto and soprano (and flute), and Dan Plonsey on
tenor -- plus piano (Scott Looney) and drums (Jim Bove). Actually, I'm
not sure why this isn't Plonsey's record: he wrote all of the tunes
(except for the Coltrane/Dolphy medley). Plonsey is another Bay Area
performer I hadn't heard of: has a half-dozen albums since 1997, plus
side-credits like Eugene Chadbourne, Anthony Braxton, and Tom Waits.
The monsters on the cover strike me as an attempt to play up the humor
while sneaking through what is by far the most avant record this label
has yet released.
- Piero Odorici: Cedar Walton Presents (2011 ,
Savant): Fine print: "with the Cedar Walton Trio" -- Walton (piano),
David Williams (bass), Willie Jones III (drums). One thing that sets
Walton apart from nearly every other pianist since he started in the
mid-1960s is his featured use of saxophonists (both on his own records
and, especially, as Eastern Rebellion). It's relatively easy to focus
on his piano here, because what he does goes way beyong comping --
he sets up all the structure the saxophonist needs. The saxophonist
in question, Odorici, was b. 1962 in Bologna, Italy, and has a fistful
of records on Italian labels, starting with First Play in 1989.
Odorici's tenor sails through six standards and one original each by
Odorici and Walton, an impressive intro, although it's the rhythm
section that makes this special.
- Thollem/Parker/Cline: The Gowanus Session (2012,
Porter): Thollem McDonas is a pianist from San Francisco, has played
on 20-some albums since 2005; might file half under his name, since
his specialties seem to be solo and duo sets. The others are bassist
William Parker and guitarist Nels Cline. Group improv, broken into
six tracks but pretty much one movement, with a lot of rough spots
along the way.
- Enrico Pieranunzi: Permutation (2009 , CAM Jazz):
Piano trio, with Scott Colley on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums.
Seems like I'm always impressed but never have a lot to say about him.
- Andy Sheppard/Michael Benita/Sebastian Rochford: Trio
Libero (2011 , ECM): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano
here), b. 1957 in England. Won a prize with a record contract at
Antilles in 1989: the one record I heard was a rather dazzling
pop-fusion thing, leaving the impression that he's sort of the
British David Sanborn, but I could be totally off. A string of
records for Provocateur ended in 2004. Later I noticed him in
Carla Bley's entourage, and now he has two records on ECM. This
is a sax trio with Benita on bass and Rochford on drums, credits
well distributed. Everything is done at a slow burn, repaying
your attention all the way.
- Chris Brubeck's Triple Play: Live at Arthur Zankel Music
Center (2011 , Blue Forest): Dave Brubeck's son,
plays trombone, bass, piano, sings. Triple Play adds Joel Brown
(guitar) and Peter Madcat Ruth (harmonica, ukulele, hi-hat, jaw
harp), both with more vocals. Cut live with special guests Dave
Brubeck (piano) and Frank Brown (clarinet). Song list is evenly
split between Brubeck standards and old blues ("Rollin' &
Tumblin," "Phonograph Blues," "Black and Blue," "St. Louis Blues,"
"Brother Can You Spare a Dime"), so you find these stretches of
fancy time-shifting piano in between the harmonica blues. Seems
at odd with itself, but Chris Brubeck compounds the conundrum
with a "5/4 boogie woogie" called "Mighty Mrs. Hippy" with a long
intro to explain the pun, and that segues into a harmonica-led
"Blue Rondo a la Turk."
- Eivind Opsvik: Overseas IV (2011 , Loyal Label):
Bassist, from Norway, moved to New York in 1998; has average 5-6 side
credits since about 2006. Describes Overseas as a band name, this being
their fourth album. Group includes Tony Malaby (tenor sax, a frequent
collaborator), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), Jacob Sachs (harpsichord,
farfisa, piano), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, tympani, vibes). Rather
rockish, but in using repeated rhythmic signatures and in indulging
in complexly layered noise -- Seabrook's guitar leads more than the
sax -- but the harpsichord offers an ironic nod to chamber music, as
does the organ to church music.
- Wayne Escoffery: The Only Son of One (2011 ,
Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist (plays soprano on the last cut), b.
1975 in London, UK; moved to New Haven, CT when he was 11; studied
under Jackie McLean; eighth record since 2001. Mainstream player,
has always had a lot of flashy technique, is developing a sensitive,
nuanced ballad tone, much evident here. With Orrin Evans on Fender
Rhodes and piano, and Adam Holzman on keyboards -- the latter meant
to suffice for strings, and just as well given how much worse a
phallanx of strings could be.
- Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Brooklyn DNA
(2011 , Clean Feed): McPhee's credit here reads, "pocket
trumpet, soprano and alto saxophones," which may be why this duo
with the Norwegian bassist doesn't hold up as robustly has their
2010 duo, Blue Chicago Blues (Not Two), where McPhee
played tenor sax. Starts off with the catchy "Crossing the
Bridge" -- a reference to Sonny Rollins, part of that Brooklyn
DNA -- and gives Flaten ample opportunities to fiddle.
- Mary Stallings: Don't Look Back (2011 , High Note):
Singer, in her 70s now; cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 then dropped
out of site until Concord rediscovered her in c. 1990, when they were
really good at that sort of thing, and she's produced ten albums since --
2005's Remember Love is still my favorite. A dilligent, precise
interpreter of the Carmen McRae school, she offers readings of a dozen
standards here, as simply as possible, with Eric Reed on piano, sometimes
Reuben Rogers on bass and Carl Allen on drums.
- Masabumi Kikuchi Trio: Sunrise (2009 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1939 in Japan. AMG comments on his "vast discography,"
but only lists 14 albums under his name, starting in 1980. A fan
called Poomaniac has more details, going back to 1963, with his
first album as a sole leader in 1970, preceded by a Hino-Kikuchi
Quintet joint in 1968. His early work manages to rope in nearly
all of the names you're likely to have heard of from the 1960s
jazz scene in Japan: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Sadao Watanabe, Terumasa
Hino. In the 1970s he started working with Gary Peacock, and in
the 1990s he led a trio called Tethered Moon with Peacock and
(who else?) Paul Motian -- the only fragment of his discography
I'm familiar with. This is his first on ECM, again a trio, with
Thomas Morgan on bass and, again, Motian on drums -- you can
construct a pretty impressive hall of fame just from pianists
who Motian has played with. As usual, his presence here looks
like zen-like disengagement, allowing the piano to emerge with
- Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (2011 , ECM):
Pianist, dates back to the early 1960s -- did an album in 1963
with the intriguing title, Country and Western Sound of Jazz
Pianos -- has consistently done fine work although I've
never heard anything (even from his Sheila Jordan co-led group)
that really blew me away. Trio, with longtime collaborator
Steve Swallow and the always superb Joey Baron. Near the top
of his game.
- Miles Okazaki: Figurations (2011 , Sunnyside):
Guitarist, third album, does his own graphic design (which is almost
worth the price of admission), wrote all eight pieces here. The
guitar lines are tense and spring open to drive this quartet, but
your ears will chase after alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, at the
top of his game. With Thomas Morgan on bass and Dan Weiss on drums.
- The Ben Riley Quartet: Grown Folks Music (2010
, Sunnyside): Cover adds "featuring Wayne Escoffery," and
shows the tenor saxophonist standing next to the veteran drummer,
the others (Ray Drummond on bass, Avi Rothbard or Freddie Bryant
on guitar) off-camera. Riley, with only two other albums under
hisown name, started out c. 1960 with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and
Johnny Griffin, but is best known from Thelonious Monk's 1960s
quartet, which continued post-Monk as Sphere. Two Monk tunes here,
plus five other standards. Mature stuff, confident, relaxed, the
guitar just flows, the sax rides along, occasionally dropping in
some wit but mostly sounding supreme.
- Mockuno NuClear: Drop It (2011 , NoBusiness):
Sax-piano-drums trio, more or less Lithuanian: Liudas Mockunas,
Dmitrij Golovanov, and Marjius Aleksa. Mockunas, b. 1976, has at
least three previous albums. Mostly avant stretch, but sometimes
they get a groove going and that's where they raise it up a level.
- Anne Mette Iversen: Poetry of Earth (2011 ,
Bju'ecords): Bassist, b. 1972 in Denmark, moved to New York to study
at New School and settled in. Fourth album, 91:25 straddling two
discs; wrote all the music for various poems (Svende Grøn, A.E.
Housman, John Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Hardy, Lene Poulsen)
sung by Maria Neckam and Christine Skou. The music has a chamber
feel, with Dan Tepfer on piano and John Ellis on reeds. I haven't
spent nearly enough time with this, and probably won't: not my
thing, but remarkable nonetheless.
- Elliott Sharp Trio: Aggregat (2011 , Clean Feed):
Seventh album by Sharp (or, as he bills himself here, "E#") that I've
heard, all since 2004, which must get me up into the 6-8% range -- let's
see: Wikipedia lists 99 albums not counting ones he produced or played
as a sideman on, with the earliest album a solo from 1979, but that 99
does include a couple of "collaborative groups" I have filed elsewhere
(John Zorn: Downtown Lullaby, Satoko Fujii: In the Tank,
Tomas Ulrich: TECK String Quartet); drop them and I'm back at
7 of 90, almost 7.8%. Point is he's someone I know of but have hardly
met. For instance, I never knew he sax (tenor and soprano) before, but
he does here on nearly half of the album, and he makes much of his
efforts, like a slower and more rugged Evan Parker. The rest of the
time he plays guitar, where he is faster and develops a harmonic
overhang that gives his figures a rich shimmer. With Brad Jones on
bass and Ches Smith on drums.
- Florian Hoefner Group: Songs Without Words (2011
, OA2): Pianist, from Germany (I think), first album (as far
as I can tell, although his label page says, "His performances are
featured on seven CD releases"), a quartet with Mike Ruby (tenor
and soprano sax), Sam Anning (bass), and Peter Kronreif (drums),
recorded in New York. All originals, mainstream postbop, sax has
some blues feel, all very nicely done.
- Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well (2011 , ECM):
Norwegian pianist, b. 1970, not clear how many albums -- e.g., I had
his 1999 collaboration with singer Siri Gjaere under his name but it
looks like hers came first; five, since 2002, all on ECM, is my best
reckoning. This one has Tore Brunborg (tenor sax), Mats Eilertsen
(bass), and Jarle Vespestad (drums).
- Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement
Sessions Vol. 1 (2012, Clean Feed): Tenor/baritone sax, bass,
drums, respectively; the leader b. 1978 in Sweden, runs the Moserobie
label (which extends well beyond his own work), has at least eight
albums since 2000 (Plays Loud for the People is one promising
title), plus an 8-CD box called The Half Naked Truth: 1998-2008.
First I've heard by him and I'm duly impressed, first by tone and
natural feel which line him up as a worthy follower of saxophonists
like Arne Domnerus and Bernt Rosengren -- a bit more avant, but that's
what we used to call progress.
- Twopool: Traffic Bins (2010 , Origin): Swiss
group: Andrea Oswald (alto sax), Andreas Tschopp (trombone), Christian
Wolfarth (drums), Jonas Tauber (cello) -- I've seen Tauber, who plays
bass elsewhere, identified as the leader, but all the pieces are free
group improvs, the growl and stutter of the trombone spaced out, picked
apart by the cello, the sax adding some melodic form. Origin started
out as a local Seattle label, but has branched out, especially Chicago,
but also to central Europe. Jonas directs their "Zürich Series" -- now
up to seven records.
- Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group: Signing (2011 ,
Motéma): Vibes and piano, group also means bass and drums. Locke has
more than two dozen albums since 1990. His collaboration with pianist
Keezer goes back at least to 2006's Live in Seattle, but this
round works out much better, nicely balanced, flashy moments from
both, and more depth -- bassist Terreon Gully deserves a mention.
- Don Byron New Gospel Quintet: Love, Peace, and Soul
(2011 , Savoy Jazz): After Mickey Katz and Raymond Scott, among
other sources less specific and idiosyncratic, yet another niche for
Byron's clarinet. (Would have included Jr. Walker, but Byron played
alto sax that time.) Inspirations here include Thomas Dorsey and
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Eddie Harris and George Russell, aunt Dorothy
Simon, and Donald Byron Sr. Vocals predominate, with DK Dyson counted
in the quintet, and Dean Bowman given a guest shot. Also on hand are
Xavier Davis (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums),
and guests include Brandon Ross, Vernon Reid, and Ralph Alessi. Hot
enough to overcome my increasing resistance to gospel, especially
when the clarinet races to the front.
- Andrew Lamb: Rhapsody in Black (2006 , NoBusiness):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1958 in North Carolina, gravitated toward AACM,
Brooklyn, and Europe. Has a spotty discography but he always makes a
strong impression wherever he pops up. This is a quartet with two drummers
(Michael Wimberly and Guillermo E. Brown), Tom Abbs working the lower
registers (bass, tuba, didgeridoo), and Lamb on sax, flute, clarinet,
and conch shell. He runs through the gyrations of an extended suite --
the soft flute segment (which I think leads into the shell) is right
on the mark, but the rough stuff is even better.
- Frank Wright Quartet: Blues for Albert Ayler (1974
, ESP-Disk): Tenor saxophonist, cut a couple of avant-garde
albums for ESP-Disk in 1965-67, not a lot more before his death in
1990 but the label fished out an unreleased winner from 1974 called
Unity, and now found another. One of the first things you'll
notice here is the guitar -- James "Blood" Ulmer some years before
he recorded under his own name. Also with Benny Wilson on bass and
Rashied Ali on drums. Wright plays some ugly flute, but his tenor
sax is remarkably cogent even while keeping the edges rough.
- Kayla Taylor Jazz: You'd Be Surprised (2011,
Smartykat): Standards singer, from Atlanta, fourth album since
2005, all identified as "Jazz" -- maybe her idea of a group,
since guitarist Steve Moore shares the cover. With Will Scruggs
on tenor and soprano sax, plus bass and drums/percussion. No
effort at picking obscure gems: I've heard nearly all of these
songs dozens of times, and they rarely disappoint -- sure don't
- Fly: Year of the Snake (2011 , ECM): Sax
trio: Mark Turner (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeff Ballard
(drums). All three contribute songs, Turner a bit more, the 5-part
"The Western Lands" credited to all. Has an inner flow to it that
keeps everything tight and coherent, the sax a bit on the sweet
- Rich Halley 4: Back From Beyond (2011 , Pine
Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon; I've been a big fan
of his work since Mountains and Plains in 2005, and this
is every bit as satisfying as long as the sax is front and center.
Less so when he plays wood flute, or when he mixes it up with
trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, even though the latter has an
appealing rough-and-readiness of his own.
- Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp
(2011 , Pi): Alto saxophonist, also has a not undeserved rep
for flute (and bass flute), started with Air in the 1970s, ranks as
one of the most important figures in avant jazz. Third Zooid album,
group expanded to a sextet with the addition of Christopher Hoffman
on cello, fleshing out the mishmash of sounds -- Liberty Ellman
(guitar), Stomu Takeishi (bass guitar), Jose Davila (trombone and
tuba), and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). At its best, the rhythm
is remarkably ragged, the sax staggered, a jumble that should crash
but doesn't -- clip out this stuff and expand on it a bit and you
get the album of the year. No real problem with the flute, but
there are spots where they lose focus and ramble, losing the edge.
- Louis Sclavis Atlas Trio: Sources (2011 , ECM):
French clarinet player, twenty-some albums since 1981. Trio adds
keyboards (Benjamin Moussay) and electric guitar (Gilles Coronado).
The guitar has a charged rough edge the other instruments flesh out,
and everyone is so keyed to the flow they avoid thoughts of chamber
music without bass or drums.
- Raoul Björkenheim/Anders Nilsson/Gerald Cleaver: Kalabalik
(2012, DMG/ARC): Two guitarists from Scandinavia, perhaps not natural
allies back home but they fit together remarkably well in New York,
plus a drummer -- always a good idea. Cut live at Bruce Lee Galanter's
downtown record store. First four cuts are hard fusion thrash with a
lot of intricacy between the lines. Then they cut the volume for a duo
that spreads their lines out.
- Henry P. Warner/Earl Freeman/Philip Spigner: Freestyle Band
(1984 , NoBusiness): Clarinets, bass guitar (and piano), hand
drums; three cuts originally self-released, with two cuts added here.
Warner was b. 1940, played around the NY lofts in the 1970s, shows up
playing alto sax on early albums by William Parker and Billy Bang.
Spigner's hand drums set up a nice homely vibe that Warner's clarinet
sometimes flows with and sometimes cuts against; Freeman plays electric
bass and piano, most often against the current, just to keep it all
- Arthur Kell Quartet: Jester (2012, Bju'ecords): Bassist,
based in New York but he's been around, including some tramping around
Africa. Fourth record since 2001 -- haven't heard the debut, See You
in Zanzibar -- but the three quartet albums are superb. Brad Shepik's
guitar is essential here, nothing flashy but he brings the gentle bass
lines up to conscious level, and Loren Stillman's bright and brittle
alto sax builds from there. With Mark Ferber on drums. Live, doesn't
grab you and shake you around, but seduces and mermerizes.
- Aram Shelton Quartet: Everything for Somebody (2011
, Singlespeed Music): Alto saxophonist, originally from Florida,
b. 1976, moved to Chicago in 1999 and built most of his working
relationships there before moving on to Oakland. Has a substantial
discography since 2001, including projects like Ton Trio, reliably
vigorous free jazz. This quartet is Chicago-based, with frequent
collaborator Keefe Jackson on tenor sax, Anton Hatwich on bass, and
Tim Daisy on drums. Resembles a sax trio with the saxes shadowing
each other, but every now and then they spin loose.
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba: XXI Century (2011 , 5Pasion,
2CD): Pianist, b. 1963 in Cuba, moved to US in 1996 but had already
built up an international reputation. Has close to thirty records --
The Blessing (1991) and Paseo (2004) are my favorites.
This is trio (Matt Brewer, Marcus Gilmore) plus featured guests --
percussionist Pedrito Martinez on most cuts, guitarist-vocalist
Lionel Loueke on two, drummer Ignacio Berroa on one. Four originals
(one reprised); pieces by Brewer and Loueke; covers from important
pianists Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans, and Paul Bley. Superb piano.
- Ivo Perelman/Matt Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Foreign Legion
(2011 , Leo): Avant Brazilian tenor sax player, has developed into
a very expressive player, in a power trio with piano and drums -- no bass,
but that just gives Shipp more room to maneuver, and he has some tricks
up his sleeve. Second play I turned the volume down and it revealed an
unexpected subtlety to Perelman's blowing. Turn it up and he just blows
- Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Clean on the Corner
(2010 , 482 Music): Drummer, from Chicago, has made a point of
excavating the city's avant jazz lore, often to remarkable effect.
Fourth album by this project/ensemble -- also has a group called Loose
Assembly. Looks back with One song each by Roscoe Mitchell and John
Jenkins, forward with six originals. Core quartet spins two saxophones
off each other, with Greg Ward on alto and Tim Haldeman on tenor, plus
Jason Roebke on bass. Adds Craig Taborn on two cuts -- past midway you
suddenly realize there's a piano in the mix -- and Josh Berman (cornet)
on two others.
- Jane Scheckter: Easy to Remember (2011 ,
self-released): Standards singer, has acted on stage and in sitcoms,
fourth widely spaced album (1988, 1993, 2003). She nails virtually
every song, with a band built around Tedd Firth (piano), Jay Leonhart
(bass), and Peter Grant (drums). But the "featuring" guests are even
better, with Tony DeSare up for a duet, Gil Chimes adding harmonica
on an especially delicious "Where or When," and "featuring" slots
from the Arbors set: Bucky Pizzarelli, Aaron Weinstein, Warren Vaché,
and every singer's best friend, Harry Allen.
- John Surman: Saltash Bells (2009 , ECM):
Plays reed instruments -- soprano, tenor, and baritone sax; alto,
bass, and contrabass clarinet this time -- and has since the late
1960s. Also plays synthesizer and harmonica, and multitracks various
combinations throughout here. Not sure how many times he's done
this before -- must be a handful -- but I don't recall any of them
being this charming.
- Stacey Kent: Dreamer in Concert (2011 ,
Blue Note): Standards singer, although her husband, saxophonist Jim
Tomlinson, writes some tunes, including two here that she matched
to texts by Kazuo Ishiguro. B. 1968 in New Jersey, based in England,
AMG lists 17 albums since 1997. She has a small voice that I find
especially charming in French. This is live, a long set, a bit of
everything she does, including two Jobims (that she aces), yet
another "It Might as Well Be Spring" (the most distinctive of the
many I've heard this week). She plays some guitar, and Tomlinson's
sax is always supportive.
- Christian Escoudé Plays Brassens: Au Bois de Mon Coeur
(2010 , Sunnyside): French guitarist, b. 1947, has a couple
dozen albums since 1975, would have picked up a Django Reinhardt
influence even without his gypsy ancestry. Songs by Georges Brassens,
mostly guitar and not just Escoudé -- Jean-Baptiste Laya is also on
most cuts, and Bireli Lagrène and Swan Berger get featured slots;
some cuts add clarinet or violin, most bass and drums.
- Jacob Garchik: The Heavens: The Atheist Trombone Album
(2012, Yestereve): Trombonist, third album, looks like he overdubbed
all the parts to his trombone choir (plus sousaphone, baritone horn,
slide trumpet, and alto horn), although for his July 25 Release Show
he's recruited a who's who of NYC trombone (plus Brian Drye on baritone
horn, Joe Daley on sousaphone, and Kenny Wolleson on drums), looking,
no doubt, to further raise the rafters. All horns, some recognizable
gospel swoops on the turbulent flow. The song notes are more rational,
citing Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, Stanley Crouch and Mark
Twain and Woody Allen. Conclusion: Be Good.
- Steve Davis: Gettin' It Done (2011 , Posi-Tone):
Trombonist, b. 1967, studied with Bob Brookmeyer and Jackie McLean,
played in Art Blakey's last band, has more than a dozen albums since
1996. Basic hard bop sextet here, with Josh Bruneau on trumpet and
Mike DiRubbo on alto sax, Larry Willis on piano, plus bass and drums.
Mostly upbeat, cools off a bit toward the end, but gets it done --
especially when DiRubbo takes over.
- Yelena Eckemoff: Forget-Me-Not (2011 , Yelena
Music): Pianist, from Moscow, Russia; came to US in 1991. Divides her
albums between classical, original instrumental, and vocal -- the
jazz fits in the middle (and largest) category. Piano trio, with
Mats Eilertsen on bass and Marilyn Mazur on percussion. Smart,
precise, tasteful, as is everything I've heard from her.
- Ari Erev: A Handful of Changes (2011 ,
self-released): Pianist, from Israel, second album; group favors
electric bass and extra percussion, and adds Ofer Shapiro's alto
sax and clarinet on one track each, but the real news is on the
front cover: "Featuring Joel Frahm" -- five cuts on tenor sax,
three cuts on soprano, in peak form on both. Piano sparkles, too.
- Michael Bates: Acrobat: Music for, and by, Dmitri
Shostakovich (2011, Sunnyside):Bassist, or "bassist-composer"
as he likes to say - as does nearly everyone, which is why I almost
never retain the second part, but the balance is worth noting with him,
even more so than with such distinguished composer-bassists as Ben
Allison and Adam Lane. I must admit I was put off by the Shostakovich
theme, unfortunately, regrettably: for one thing, only one (of nine)
pieces is by Shostakovich; for another, his postbop orchestration -
a superb group with Chris Speed (alto sax, clarinet), Russ Johnson
(trumpet), Russ Lossing (piano, rhodes), and Tom Rainey (drums) - of
"Dance of Death" is a high point here, possibly because it signifies
to me more as rock (as Weill does) than as classical. The affinities
of the other pieces isn't clear to me, but as tightly composed postbop
pieces they are remarkably varied and inventive. Should play this
- Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (2010 , Concord):
Pianist, b. 1960 in Brazil, AMG lists 23 albums since 1986. Not sure
when she started singing - certainly by 1997's *Sings Jobim*,
which I found utterly dreamy. Her voice is in the affectless Astrud
Gilberto tradition, a bit more accommodating and gracious. While I
routinely complain about American singers and their "obligatory
Jobim" picks, she nails her turf down - OK, no Jobim here, but
Gilberto Gil joins in for three cuts, and her guitar and percussion
picks are near perfect. The songs in English, including "My Cherie
Amour" and the slowed down title cut, are impeccably cool, and she
scats her way through "Take Five" with Randy Brecker adding a bit
of highlight. I will complain about the photography: not that she's
getting too old for cheesecake, but the lighting makes her look
strangely pale and purple.
- Tony Malaby: Tony Malaby's Novella (2011, Clean Feed):
Tenor saxophonist, credited first with soprano here. Has a dozen albums
since 1993, but I mostly run into him on side credits where he always
helps out and often steals the show. One such venue is pianist Kris
Davis's Quartet. Davis returns the favor here, not just playing but
arranging six pieces from previous Malaby albums for a nonet: four
reeds, three brass, her piano, and John Hollenbeck's drums - no bass
but Dan Peck's tuba, Ben Gerstein's trombone, Andrew Badro's bari sax,
and Joachim Badenhorst's bass clarinet offer plenty of bottom support.
The front-line horns are Ralph Alessi's trumpet, Michael Attias's alto
sax, and Malaby's soprano/tenor, but they rarely stand out. I haven't
managed to take it all in yet, but it sure is heavy.
- Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You: New Lyrics to Benny Carter
Classics (2011, Evening Star):Singer, writes plays, studied
at Barnard then moved to Los Angeles, where Benny and Hilma Carter
"became like surrogate parents." Carter wrote "Souvenir of You" as
a tribute to Johnny Hodges on his passing, so Pearl added a lyric as
a tribute to Carter. Two cuts here sample Carter's 1992 big band
record *Harlem Renaissance* so she gets to sing along with her
late mentor - Carter died in 2003 at 95; Hilma, who dated Carter
in the '30s but didn't marry him until sometime in the '70s, is
still alive (as far as I can tell, probably in her 80s). Pearl's
first album. Aside from the two big band cuts, everything else is
done with piano, bass and drums. No problem with the music, of
course, but after sixty years of vocalese hackwork, I'm surprised
how well the lyrics fit - she describes them as figuring out a
puzzle - and "Doozy Blues" should go straight into the songbook
of anyone who's ever been satisfied with a Jon Hendricks lyric.
- Augusto Pirodda: No Comment (2009 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Pianist, b. 1971 in Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy); studied in Netherlands,
now based in Brussels. Has a couple previous albums - one solo, also
a duo with Michal Vanoucek. Drew the A-Team for this trio: Gary Peacock
on bass, Paul Motian on drums. Quiet, slow, so subtle I damn near missed
it but the bass kept sneaking around to grab me.
- Miguel Zenón & Laurent Coq: Rayuela (2011 ,
Sunnyside): Puerto Rican alto saxophonist, one of the most impressive
to emerge since 2000, teams with a French pianist with a half-dozen
albums of his own since 1999, for a set of tunes loosely based on a
novel by Julio Cortazar. With Dana Leong, who has much more fun with
his trombone than with the cello -- the latter is my main reservation
here, not the first time that Zenón's fondness for strings has tripped
him up. Also Dan Weiss, on drums, tabla, all things percussive.
- Bobby Streng's House Big Band: Getting Housed
(2011 , self-released): Tenor saxophonist, based in Ann Arbor,
also has a group called Saxomble -- basically, a sax quartet plus
rhythm section. For his big band, he pulled 19 musicians I've never
head of together and recorded them live. Guitar on two tracks, bass
split between one guy on electric and another on acoustic, but
really it's all about the horns, lots of punch and polish. I know
big bands are supposed to be prohibitively uneconomic, but there
sure are a lot of them on record. Part of that is that damn near
every musician wants to be an arranger, but often enough they
must be a hoot to play in.
- Rick Davies: Salsa Norteña (2012, Emlyn): Trombonist,
originally from Albuquerque, got a Ph.D. from NYU with a dissertation
on Cuban brass, teaches at SUNY Plattsburgh while running a salsa
band (Jazzismo) based across the pond in Burlington, VT. Side credits
include Blondie, Michael Jackson, and Wyclef Jean, and he has at least
one previous album under his own name (Siempre Salsa). No session
info, but this looks like two sets with different players at trumpet,
piano, and bass, one of those with Jorge "Papo" Ross singing, but one
basic sound. Not sure if Davies intends to introduce something Mexican
(which is what Norteña means to me) or just to push the border up to
Montreal, but it has a jump feel, and the brass is for muscle, not
- Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (2011 ,
Cuneiform, 4CD): Hard to fault the desire for memorialization, but it
does tend toward works that are overwrought and tedious, and that's
certainly one's first impression in wading through Smith's thirty-year
struggle with the civil rights movement, a subject that hasn't lost
its relevance not least because it hasn't achieved its goals, and our
hopes for it. Smith's pieces witness history, from "Dred Scott: 1857"
to "September 11th, 2001: A Memorial," with most ranging from Thurgood
Marshall in 1954 to Martin Luther King in 1968, but those are just
titles. With no libretto to make connections obvious, the music can
be abstracted from the intents, leaving you with 273 minutes of often
overwrought and sometimes tedious neoclassicism, all the more so when
played by Jeff von der Schmidt's Southwest Chamber Music -- strings,
flute, harp, and the tympani that dominate the first disc. Smith's
Golden Quartet/Quintet -- the difference seems to be the addition of
a second drummer, Susie Ibarra or Pheeroan akLaff -- is more compact,
the interplay between Anthony Davis' piano and the leader's trumpet
often remarkable. In fact, Smith's trumpet is remarkable throughout,
able to cut through his arrangements as well as dice with Davis.
Focus there, and keep the faith.
- Virginia Mayhew Quartet: Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100
Years (2010 , Renma): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, has
seven albums since 1988, played with Earl Hines when she was young,
and won the New School's first Zoot Sims Memorial Scholarship. This
is a program of Mary Lou Williams pieces, with Ed Cherry on guitar
to sweeten the swing, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone to deepen it, and
no piano to confuse things.
- Arts & Sciences: New You (2012, Singlespeed Music):
Quartet, based in Oakland, Michael Coleman is the leader, plays various
electric keybs (Wurlitzer, Yamaha CS-10, Fender Rhodes), with Jacob
Zimmerman (alto sax, flute), Matt Nelson (tenor sax, effects), and
Jordan Glenn (drums). Second group album; Coleman also has an unrecorded
group called Cavity Fang, plays with Aram Shelton (who returns the favor
playing bass clarinet on one track), and has a Tune-Yards side credit.
More exciting when the saxes cut loose than when they coil tightly,
but dense either way.
- Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes
(2011 , Marsalis Music): Saxophonist (mostly tenor, plus some
soprano, enough to establish a polling reputation), with pianist
Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner.
Two covers (Thelonious Monk, "My Ideal"), originals by all but the
drummer, and they are tunes, not just riffs to improv off. I've
never been a fan of the pianist, but he does more than just fluff
them up, and the leader sounds exquisite.
- The Impossible Gentlemen (2012, Basho): Quartet,
primarily pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker -- three
and four song credits respectively -- backed by Steve Swallow on
bass and Adam Nussbaum (who has the other song credit) on drums.
Simcock (b. 1981) is a hot young player; Walker (b. 1962) has side
credits from 1991 but only one record under his own name, yet they
make a powerfully interesting match here.
- Jörg Fischer/Olaf Rupp/Frank Paul Schubert: Phugurit
(2011 , Gligg): Drums, electric guitar, saxophones, respectively.
Fischer also has a duo with Peter Brötzmann out. Not familiar with the
others, but this is prickly free improv, nicely spaced out, interesting
- John Abercrombie Quartet: Within a Song (2011 ,
ECM): Guitarist, b. 1944 in Portchester, NY; more than 50 albums since
1971, most on ECM, a major figure albeit a tricky one to get a firm
grasp on -- usually lurks in the woodwork, but sometimes can step out
and dazzle. Has a group here that makes lurking a pleasure: Joey Baron
(drums), Drew Gress (bass), and Joe Lovano (tenor sax).
- Jessica Williams: Songs of Earth (2009-11 ,
Origin): Pianist, b. 1948, has a lot of albums, too many of which
are solo, but this one cherry picked from a couple years of live
dates stands out, not least because she keeps the left hand hard
- Neil Cowley Trio: The Face of Mount Molehill (2012,
Naim Jazz): Piano trio, with Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on
drums. Fourth album, augmented with strings on most tracks but the
effect isn't obvious other than that there's more going on than
you'd figure a trio could concoct. Lots of beat and bounce -- at
one point Laura came in and approvingly described this as techno;
I'm more tempted to say postbop boogie-woogie. Not all like that,
and even at his most grooveful Cowley avoids the slickness of smooth
- Neneh Cherry & the Thing: The Cherry Thing (2012,
Smalltown Supersound): Avant-garde trumpeter Don Cherry's step-daughter
cut a marvelous hip-hop album in 1989 (Raw Like Sushi), a good
follow-up in 1992, and not much more. She was born in Stockholm, and
Cherry was most influential in Scandinavia, which leads to the Norwegian
sax trio known as the Thing: Mats Gustafsson on tenor/baritone sax,
Ingegrigt Håker Flaten on bass, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. The Thing
plays a punk variant of free jazz, often starting with rock songs and
ripping them up. They're well behaved here, Gustafsson's bari providing
a strong hint of menace without disrupting Cherry's flow -- although
he does wreck the joint on "Dirt" (a Stooges song). Not the dream album
one hoped for, but a working combo that can't help but stir shit up.
- Otmar Binder Trio: Boogie Woogie Turnaround (2012,
Jump River): Pianist, don't have much to go on and have a lot of
problems trying to parse the liner, but probably German, claims he
first got into boogie-woogie in 1978, but doesn't seem to have any
other albums. Mostly trio, with Alexander Lackner (bass) and Michael
Strasser (drums). Cover says "feat BJ COLE & christian DOZZLER,"
but where? on what? (Cole plays pedal steel; Dozzler is credited with
"harp," by which I think they mean harmonica.) And there are other
musicians, especially on the last track. The music is clearer: piano
boogie, with at least one cut recalling Professor Longhair, delightful
all the way through.
- Jerry Bergonzi: Shifting Gears (2012, Savant): Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1947, has recorded steadily since 1983. Mainstream
player, from 2006 on recorded a series of exceptional albums that
underscored both how mainstream he was and how vital mainstream could
be -- the titles self-explanatory, Tenorist, Tenor Talk,
Simply Put. Here the title suggests kicking it up a notch, and
while Phil Grenadier (trumpet) and Bruce Barth (piano) are as secure
in the mainstream as he is, they do just that.
- Brubeck Brothers Quartet: Life Times (2012, Blue Forest):
Dave Brubeck's sons, Chris Brubeck (electric bass, bass trombone) and
Dan Brubeck (drums), plus Chuck Lamb on piano and Mike DiMicco on guitar.
Several albums since 2000. They don't appear to have any desire to move
out of their famous father's shadow: four (of eight) songs are by the
senior Brubeck, and a fifth is Paul Desmond's "Take Five," stretched
out to 10:25, sounding as glorious as ever.
- Roni Ben-Hur/Santi Debriano: Our Thing (2011 ,
Motéma): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with Brazilian drummer Duduka Da
Fonseca's name in smaller type as "featuring" (he contributed one
song, as did Ben-Hur, to the bassist's four). Ben-Hur is an Israeli
with more than a dozen albums since 1995, with a soft tone and boppish
demeanor that works nice here, especially on covers from Monk, Jobim,
and Berlin. Debriano was born in Panama but grew up in New York, and
has a substantial discography of his own.
- Maïkotron Unit: Effugit (2011 , Jazz From Rant):
Canadian trio, brothers Michel Côté (clarinets, piccolo) and Pierre
Côté (cello, bass), plus drummer Michel Lambert, except that both
Michels also play something called a maïkotron. As best I have been
able to figure out, this is a tenor sax mouthpiece hooked up to all
sorts of brass plumbing, in some cases capable of ranging below the
bass saxophone -- two inside pictures show four very different-looking
contraptions. The group's previous Ex-Voto won me over, but
this is a bit less convincing, more limited to the novelty of the
- Michael McNeill Trio: Passageways (2010 ,
self-released): Pianist, b. 1982, based in Buffalo, first album,
a trio with Ken Filiano (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). I often
despair of my inability to sort out the vast wave of piano trios
that come my way, but sometimes I'm caught by surprise -- just
rarely by someone I've never heard of before. First clue here
is the bassist, who never plays on uninteresting albums. Filiano
kicks off the 20:34 opener -- that length another sign that
something is up here -- but when the pianist takes over he darts
in and out, never settling for something ordinary. The other four
pieces range 5:48-9:58.
- Platform 1: Takes Off (2011 , Clean Feed):
New Ken Vandermark group, with Magnus Broo (trumpet), Steve Swell
(trombone), Joe Williamson (bass), and Michael Vatcher (drums).
All but the drummer contribute songs -- Vandermark's two dedicated
to label head Pedro Costa and Roswell Rudd, good news for the
trombonist, who has the hot hand here. When the horns are flaring,
as impressive as any band working, including Vandermark's previous
Five. Don't quite get the dead spaces, though.
- Angles 8: By Way of Deception: Live in Ljubljana
(2011 , Clean Feed): Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen's
big group, expanded from six to eight this time -- Eirik Hegdal
(baritone sax, soprano sax) and Alexander Zethson (piano) are the
adds, although he's also swapped trumpeters (Goran Kajfes replaces
Magnus Broo). The piano pays dividends, and Mattias Ståhl's vibes
glitter throughout, but the horns are rich, vibrant, triumphant.
- Trespass Trio [Martin Küchen/Per Zanussi/Raymond Strid]:
Bruder Beda (2011 , Clean Feed): Like Angles,
Exploding Customer, Sound of Mucus, another Martin Küchen group,
a trio with Küchen on alto sax, Per Zanussi on double bass, and
Raymond Strid on drums. Second group album. Slowly, cautiously
navigates the free jazz shoals, at once daring and moderate.
- Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron: Enfants
Terribles (2011 , Half Note): The drummer, at 56, is
the youngest here, so "enfants" as much of a joke as "terribles."
The eldest is the alto saxophonist, at 85 -- presumably he's the
guy at the end who can't remember his bandmates names, although
you'll recognize them. I kept listening for Konitz, and hearing
Frisell, playing Konitz-like twists on the standards repertoire.
Not that the alto sax isn't present. He just works a around the
lines, letting the band for this "Live at the Blue Note" disc
- Bill Cantrall & Axiom: Live at the Kitano
(2010 , Up Swing): Trombone player, from and based in
New York, studied at Northwestern and Queen's College. One
previous album, Axiom, named his band -- basically a
hard bop quintet with trombone instead of trumpet -- after
it: Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano sax), Rick Germanson (piano),
Gerald Cannon (bass), Darrell Green (drums), plus he picks up
Mike DiRubbo (alto sax) and Freddie Hendrix (trumpet, comes
as a surprise) for a 23:57 expansion of "Axiom."
- Hairy Bones: Snakelust (to Kenji Nakagami) (2011
, Clean Feed): Second group album, various typographic problems
on the packaging -- they've decided they don't like to space out the
group name, and prefer "e" to umlaut in the saxophonist's name, but
for history's sake we'll straighten those quirks out. Of course, a
mere moment's attention will satisfy you that the saxophonist is
Peter Brötzmann, even when he's playing clarinet in what he may well
think of as New Age mode. Toshinori Kondo, who worked with Brötzmann
back in the Die Like a Dog quartet, adds mischief with trumpet
and electronics. Zu electric bassist Massimo Pupillo smoothes things
out, and Paal Nilssen-Love is the drummer. One 53-minute blast, but
it moves up and down and around enough they could call it a suite
if they had such pretensions. They don't.
- Keith Jarrett: Sleeper: Tokyo, April 16, 1979
(1979 , ECM, 2CD): Live double, featuring Jarrett's European
Quartet: Jan Garbarek (saxes, flute), Palle Danielsson (bass),
Jon Christensen (drums) -- their surnames staggered on the front
cover, but only the leader's on the spine. All Jarrett pieces,
only the encore clocking in under 10 minutes, "Oasis" stretching
to 28. Interesting to hear Garbarek struggling with Coltrane's
ghost -- much more rugged than I recall even from his early
work -- and, of course, the piano is dense and divisive.
- Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens: Gather (2011
, Delmark): Chicago group, sextet, with three horns -- Aram
Shelton (alto sax, clarinet), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, bass clarinet),
Josh Berman (cornet) -- plus Lonberg-Holm on cello (and tenor guitar),
Anton Hatwich (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums), with everyone doubling
up on trumpet or cornet somewhere. Third group album, but the leaders
have rotated depending on who came in with the songs -- the other two
are filed under Shelton and Jackson. The cellist has released some
squelchy electronics albums, and appeared in the Vandermark 5, but
he's never had this kind of front line, and he makes quite a lot out
- Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul: Reunion: Live in New
York (2007 , Pi, 2CD): Rivers died in 2011, so the only
way to get more is to scrounge for it. This first effort uncovers two
fully improvised sets with bass and drums, backing Rivers on tenor
sax, soprano sax, flute, and piano. The tenor, of course, is his main
instrument, and I'd be happy if that's all there was, but the flute
is engaging, and the piano is a revelation. The bass is more of a
reminder: we've listened to Holland as leader and composer so long
one forgets just how vital he was during his avant-garde phase, but
here it all comes back.
- Hugo Carvalhais: Particula (2011 , Clean Feed):
Portuguese bassist, second album -- I usually don't bother crediting
headliners as composer, even though they often make a point of it on
their websites, on the theory that virtually everyone makes that claim,
but often with bassists the compositions are the main point. Describes
Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ, synth) and Mário Costa (drums) as "regular
band mates," adding Emile Parisien (soprano sax) and Dominique Pifarély
(violin) for this date. Gives him a lot of options to play off against
each other, or occasionally pile up.
- Anat Cohen: Claroscuro (2011 , Anzic): Israeli
reed player, based in New York, leads with her clarinet here but also
plays tenor and soprano sax. Mostly quartet, with Jason Lindner on
piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Daniel Freedman on drums. About half
Brazilian tunes, with Paquito D'Rivera guesting on four. Trombonist
Wycliffe Gordon joins in on two, and sings "La Vie en Rose." Closes
with Abdullah Ibrahim's "The Wedding."
- Donny McCaslin: Casting for Gravity (2012, Greenleaf
Music): Tenor saxophonist, technically among his generation's greats,
often known to explode and run away with other people's records, but
his own records more often than not leave me cold -- exception, 2008's
Recommended Tools, especially with the fancy postbop layering.
The backing here is relatively straightforward, with Jason Lindner
favoring electric keybs over piano, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass,
and producer David Binney slipping in some further synth -- all of
which mean the sax is constantly front and center.
- Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Ancestors
(2011 , TUM): Duets, trumpet and drums, not that either should
need introduction, Smith coming out of the AACM, Moholo (not sure why
he expanded his name) from South Africa's legendary Blue Notes. Cut
in Finland, a little spare but both players continually rise to the
occasion, providing a lot to focus on.
- George Cables: My Muse (2012, High Note): Pianist, b.
1944, worked his way through Art Blakey's boot camp, recorded frequently
(and magnificently) with Art Pepper (1979-82), has 30-some albums since
1975, a mainstream stylist of exceptional touch and taste, which makes
it all the harder to pick among his many trios, like this one with
Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis. I'm especially touched by his "My Old
- Ryan Truesdell: Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil
Evans (2012, ArtistShare): Of course, this is much more
enticing as Gil Evans' unfinished work, on his 100th birthday no
less, than it would be attributed to unknown arranger Truesdell,
and I've seen reviews that go whole hog and file the record under
Evans' name. It stands up nicely, if not all that consistently,
on its own, the huge orchestra -- 32 instrumentalists plus three
vocalists slotted with one song each -- is full of players who
don't need to hide in a crowd. Aside from the solos, I found
myself tracking the vibes (Joe Locke), a little sparkle on top
of all the lushness.
- Josh Berman & His Gang: There Now (2011 ,
Delmark): Cornet player, based in Chicago, third album, His Gang
an octet, with five horns -- Berman, Jeb Bishop (trombone), Guilhermo
Gregorio (clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), and Keefe Jackson
(tenor sax) -- vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), bass (Joshua Abrams), and
drums (Frank Rosaly). The horns (even the clarinets) have a lot of
firepower, often glorious, sometimes fracturing or skidding, while
the vibes do a nice job of following the crowd.
- Bobby Sanabria Big Band: Multiverse (2011 ,
Jazzheads): Drummer, b. 1957 in the Bronx, folks Puerto Rican;
studied at Berklee, and perhaps more importantly with Mario Bauza,
who gets a toast here. Started with small groups, moving up to a
big band with 2007's Big Band Urban Folktales, and he
pretty much owns that niche now. Picks up momentum, ending with
a La Bruja rap that starts with history and plunges into the
- Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut (2011 , YSL): Trombone
player, b. 1965, sixth album since 1998, including a tribute to Albert
Mangelsdorff, and an A-listed album last year (Sacred Chrome Orb).
This is a trombone quartet, or close -- Ryan Keberle and Josh Roseman
also play trombone, but Marcus Rojas plays tuba. Not the first to try
something like this (cf. Ray Anderson's Slide Ride), but the
tuba gives this some extra bounce, and the bones take the hint.
- Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Live (2009-11 , ECM, 2CD):
Swiss pianist, group includes Sha (bass clarinet, alto sax), Björn
Mayer or Thomy Jordi (bass), Kaspar Rast (drums), and Andi Pupato
(percussion). Half dozen records together, this live summary pieced
together from eight concerts although it could be seamless. Works
mostly around a rhythm that is propulsive even when it shifts, and
builds complex modulations on that, so stretching out is part of
- Irene Reid: The Queen of the Party (1997-2003 ,
Savant): Singer, 1930-2008, came up in jazz bands including
a stint with Count Basie, cut five records 1963-71 then faded until
her 1997 comeback, Million Dollar Secret, with Charles Earland
on organ and Eric Alexander on tenor sax, jump blues with a post-feminist
vengeance. She cut five albums for Savant (plus they released a 1990
date as Thanks for You), so this serves as a best-of, an intro,
- Houston Person: Naturally (2012, High Note): Tenor
saxophonist, 77 when this was recorded, a mainstream fixture since
the early 1960s who now must be counted among the all-time greats.
With my idea of a supergroup: Cedar Walton, Ray Drummond, and Lewis
Nash. Not that anyone's trying for super -- just relaxed, enjoying
themselves, luxuriating in his sound. I know I always say nice things
about him, but this is his best since To Etta With Love (2004).
- LaVerne Butler: Love Lost and Found Again (2012,
High Note): Vocalist, b. 1962 in New Orleans, fifth album since
1992 (last one was 2001, on MaxJazz). All standards, arranged by
pianist Bruce Barth, backed by Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Rudy
Royston on drums, with Houston Person, never less than adorable,
guesting on four tracks. Lots to smile about.
- Nadje Noorduis (2010 , Little Mystery):
Trumpet/flugelhorn player, b. 1977 in Australia, based in New
York since 2003. First album, composed through, makes deft use
of Sara Caswell's violin for background texture to offset the
trumpet -- what many people hope for with strings but few pull
off. With Geoff Keezer (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Obed
Calvaire (drums), aside for a diversion on "Le Hameau Omi" with
pandeiro and classical guitar, which works just as well.
- Ron Miles: Quiver (2011 , Enja/Yellowbird):
Trumpet player, b. 1963 in Indiana, moved to Denver at age 11 and
is still based there. Ninth album since 1989 -- surprised that this
is the first I've heard, although looking at his credits list I see
at least a dozen familiar albums, most with Bill Frisell but also
Fred Hess, Wayne Horvitz, Jenny Scheinman, DJ Logic, even a pretty
good Ginger Baker album. This is a trio with Bill Frisell guitar
and Brian Blade drums. Frisell does much to shape this, whether
he's shifting the background, or working up one of his Americana
twists, but credit the leader, too.
- Rez Abbasi Trio: Continuous Beat (2012, Enja):
Guitarist, b. 1965 in Karachi, Pakistan; based in New York; has at
least seven albums since 1995, some referring back to the
subcontinent's musical heritage, some (like this one) not: trio, with
John Hebert on bass, Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Five (of nine)
originals, covers of Gary Peacock, Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk,
with a short, delicate, very respectful "Star Spangled Banner"
B+(***) [advance: Oct. 9]
- Bill Anschell/Brent Jensen/Chris Smyer: Blueprints
(2012, Origin): Piano, soprano sax, bass, respectively; recorded in
Seattle, which is at least the pianist's home town. Jensen started
out on alto but has become a specialist; he's a mainstream player,
always precise and eloquent, should be regarded as one of the main
players on his instrument. One group improv, eight standards, none
in any way obscure ("All Blues," "How Deep Is the Ocean," "Blue Monk,"
"Star Eyes," "Yardbird Suite" -- for example). Nothing daring about
any of them, and the lack of a drummer ensures a leisurely pace,
but they're tasteful and lovely, another feather for Jensen's hat.
- Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII: Sankei Hall, Osaka,
Japan (1980 , Widow's Taste, 2CD): I've probably lost my
credibility here, given that this makes six straight Pepper authorized
bootlegs I've given this same grade to -- they cheaped out on Vol.
VI and only sent a sampler, so that's the hole in the list, but
even with excess talk, thin sound, and a set list I've heard several
times before, I can't go lower. For one thing, he's got George Cables
on board -- the pianist he used on most of his studio recordings, but
has been absent thus far on the boots. But also he's at a personal
peak, which for him means more or less midway between jail and death.
Anyone who doesn't know him should work through the essential studio
discs: The Return of Art Pepper (1956-57), Meets the Rhythm
Section (1957), Smack Up (1960), Living Legend
(1975), Straight Life (1979), Winter Moon (1980); for
live Pepper, my fave is With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981,
narrowly over Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard (1977) --
but note that the whole Village Vanguard stand is available in a
9-CD box (and that the complete 1977-82 Galaxy Recordings can be
savored in a 16-CD box). Simplest way to describe him is that he
refracted up every modernist impulse from Parker to Coltrane to
Coleman, but he also maintained the sweetest alto sax tone of all
(well, excepting Johnny Hodges, of course).
- Chives: Dads (2012, Primary): Trio: Steven Lugerner
(reeds), Matthew Wohl (bass), Max Jaffe (drums); first group album,
all pieces jointly credited. The one we've heard of before is Lugerner,
whose notable 2011 debut sprawled over two discs. This is much less
ambitious, and more readily digestible, a compact sax/clarinet trio
riffing smartly within the usual framework.
- Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Mechanical
Malfunction (2012, Thirsty Ear): Christopher Todd Walter
was b. 1972 in Rockford, IL. He founded an avant-rock group, the
Flying Luttenbachers, which featured Ken Vandermark on at least
one album. He's described as a "composer and instrumentalist" --
credits are scanty here, but he seems to be the drummer. Halvorson
plays guitar. She is a remarkable player with an erratic catalog
that I don't fully appreciate, partly due to a spat with her
publicist -- twice now her records have scored high in critics
polls (meaning, among other things, that they were distributed
widely, just not to me), and this year's Bending Bridges
appears likely to be a third. Evans plays trumpet in the "bebop
terrorist" outfit Mostly Other People Do the Killing, and likes
to record solo albums on the side. Second album for the trio:
avant noise, the guitar scratchy but probing, the trumpet poking
through the clouds, the drummer on top of everything.
- Sonic Liberation Front: Jetway Confidential
(2009-11 , High Two): This is percussionist Kevin Diehl's
Baltimore-based Afro-Cuban group, built around the tuned bata
drums at the center of Yoruba religio-cultural practice, their
fifth album since 2000 (2004's Ashé a Go-Go remains the
one to start with). Cut over a couple years with a spreadsheet
of contributors, the horns grate sometimes, and the vocals go
so deep into their roots they come out of a strange other world.
Took me many plays to get into it, but a remarkable band, unique,
and worth the trouble.
- Steve Kuhn Trio: Life's Magic (1986 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1938, has dozens of records since 1963, including this one,
cut live at the Village Vanguard and originally released on Blackhawk in
1987. Trio with Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster on drums, Kuhn remembers
"feeling like a kid in a candy store". Half originals, half swing-period
covers, LP-length, light and spry.
- Ben Holmes Quartet: Anvil of the Lord (2012, Skirl):
Trumpet player, b. 1979 in Ithaca, NY. Released a trio album in 2009,
followed up here by adding a trombone (Curtis Hasselbring) and swapping
bassists. As Louis Armstrong understood early on, the trombone is the
perfect foil for a trumpeter, and that principle still applies here,
even moving far into postbop territory.
- Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet: Stellar Pulsations
(2012, Delmark): Cornet player, based in Chicago, an essential part
of Chicago Underground Duo/Trio (which morphed into Sao Paulo
Underground) and a number of astronomy-themed groups: Starlicker,
Exploding Star Orchestra, now Pulsar Quartet. With Angelica Sanchez
(piano), Matthew Lux (bass guitar), and John Herndon (drums). The
cornet is sparkling, and Sanchez makes a strong impression.
- Dave Douglas Quintet: Be Still (2012, Greenleaf Music):
The modernist trumpet great gets sentimental, marking the death of his
mother with hymns and folk songs, even a plaintive bluegrass singer,
Aoife O'Donovan (of Crooked Still). Jon Irabagon joins on tenor sax,
with Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Rudy Royston on drums.
I feared an art-song move at first, but the context helps, as does the
fact that Douglas's brass band experiments have provided an interesting
parallel to Bill Frisell's string band Americana. The more conventional
group doesn't belabor the point, nor does the saxophonist heave any
bombs, although his occasional solos are notable.
- Avery Sharpe: Sojourner Truth: ". . . Ain't I a Woman?"
(2011 , JKNM): Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was the adopted name
of a woman both into slavery in New York, emancipated in 1827; she
became a notable abolitionist reader, an excerpt from her famous "Ain't
I a Woman?" speech featured here. This is the bassist's 11th album
since 1988, possibly his most ambitious, not just in its historical
subject matter but in his expansion of the band -- Craig Handy (tenor
and soprano sax) and Duane Eubanks (trumpet) join Onaje Allen Gumbs
(piano) and Yoron Israel (drums), plus Jeri Brown recites and sings,
very effective, touching especially on "Son of Mine" (Truth's son was
illegally sold from NY to Alabama; she successfully sued to win back
- Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (2012, Verve): Singer,
plays piano, b. 1964 in British Columbia; thirteenth album since
1993, over 15 million copies sold (wonder whether that's more than
her famous, older, and more prolific husband), which seems to have
generated some backlash. As a singer she's a model of precision
and economy, and this, like most of her albums, mails one finely
wrought standard after another. These reportedly date from the
1920s and 1930s (although "Lonely Avenue" is later), the archive
work credited to her father's collection of 78s. Producer T-Bone
Burnett is right at home in the era, most of his moves in the
guitar-ukulele-banjo section. My copy has four "bonus tracks" --
piano-voice only outtakes, nice but inessential.
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: 50th Anniversary Collection
(1962-2010 , Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): By all accounts, jazz
originated in New Orleans, but from the 1920s on jazz musicians
couldn't wait to get out of the Crescent City. Meanwhile, the
native jazz of New Orleans became trad jazz, eclipsed by swing
and bop and cool and avant and all manner of postmodernism, so
archaic it could be welcomed back as tourist music -- all of this
within the lifespan of musicians like De De Pierce, George Lewis,
and Cie Frazier, who were welcomed back as folk heroes. In the
1960s Allan Jaffe opened Preservation Hall and organized its Jazz
Band, an institution that has continued for fifty years, though
dozens of personnel changes all dedicated to maintaining the old
sound. They've mostly achieved that aim, but with fifty years to
choose from, the compilers have opportunities to mix it up, like
guest vocals by Tom Waits, Richie Havens, and Del McCoury. Still,
I prefer the old stuff, especially guys like George Lewis, whose
take on the music had less to do with respecting history than
with staying alive.
- Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton: 'Round Midnight
(2012, Challenge): Two generations of retro-swing tenor saxophonists,
reigning champions respectively -- Allen a Coleman Hawkins stalwart,
Hamilton more of a Lester Young/Zoot Sims swinger -- backed by piano
(Rossano Sportiello), bass (Joel Forbes), and drums (Chuck Riggs).
One Allen original ("Great Scott"), a bunch of standards, a riff
piece from Lockjaw Davis, they sound great together, making it look
all so easy.
- Lou Pallo of Les Paul's Trio: Thank You Les (2012,
Showplace Music Production): A tribute to pioneering electric guitarist
Les Paul, from his long-time rhythm guitarist, the first album under
Pallo's name. I've never quite known what to do with Paul, ultimately
filing his records under "vocal-20" even thought he actual singer was
his wife, Mary Ford, and that only for a small slice of a sprawling
career. Best thing I ever heard him do was on Jazz at the Philharmonic's
The First Concert, but I've never heard him do anything like that
ever again. The one other record I can recommend is his collection with
Ford, The Best of the Capitol Masters: 90th Birthday Edition
(1948-57 , Capitol), where their penchant for kitsch works out
more often than not. But this tribute comes close, and may even win
out in the end. The guest list salts the famous (Keith Richard, Steve
Miller, Billy Gibbons, José Feliciano, Slash) with virtuosos (Bucky
Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola) but works just as well with lesser knowns
(Blondie Chaplin, Nicki Parrott!) and unknowns (Johnny A?). Again, the
key is kitsch, from "Vaya Con Dios" to "Nature Boy" to "Smile" to
"Over the Rainbow." And while I count thirteen guitarists, I really
only hear one -- which sounds like Paul on a good day.
- Peter Zak: Nordic Noon (2011 , Steeplechase):
Pianist, from Ohio, studied at UC Berkeley, based in New York, ten
albums since 1989, mostly trios -- I count one solo, and one with
a sax added, plus side dates, mostly with trumpeter Ryan Kisor. This
is another trio, with Peter Washington and Billy Drummond -- hard
to imagine a better mainstream rhythm section. Three originals, most
of the eight covers from 1960s and 1970s jazz sources, a tradition
he builds on.
- Sam Newsome: The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (2011
, self-released): Saxophonist, b. 1965; nine or so records
since 1999; I have him listed tenor first but he plays soprano here,
solo, but he tricked me at first, tapping out a percussive rhythm
on the Ellington opener that reminded me of steel drums. That's a
neat trick, and by no means his only one. He returns to Ellington
two more times, interleaving "A Love Supreme" and series of
Africana, including a bit of Fela.
- Angelica Sanchez Quintet: Wires & Moss (2011
, Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1972 in Phoenix, AZ; moved to New
York in 1994; fourth album, composed all pieces. Very impressive
group, with Tony Malaby (tenor/soprano sax) and Marc Ducret (guitar)
threatening to run away with the album, plus Drew Gress (bass) and
Tom Rainey (drums). She's less avant than her cohort, fast and
fluid in the interstices.
- Maya Dunietz/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Cousin It
(2008 , Hopscotch): Avant piano trio, recorded in London,
home base of Edwards (bass) and Noble (drums). Pianist Dunietz,
b. 1981 in Israel, seems to have a varied career ("active in
jazz, rock, funk, polka -- both classical and avant garde, both
local and international"), also playing accordion and singing,
but just piano here. Superb when she plays with the drummer,
adding to the free percussive frenzy.
- Michaël Attias: Spun Tree (2012, Clean Feed):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Israel but has been around, with
long stretches in France and the US. Postbop quintet, superb
Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Matt Mitchell centering on piano,
with Sean Conly on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. Lots of fast,
- Frank Kimbrough Trio: Live at Kitano (2011 ,
Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1956, more than a dozen albums since 1998,
part of the Jazz Composers Collective in New York, along with Ben
Allison and Matt Wilson. He's the one I've been least impressed
with, but this hits a sweet spot as a slow, thoughtful manoeuver
through five covers (Pettiford, Ellington, Motian, Hill, "Lover
Man") and three originals. With Wilson on drums and Jay Anderson
- Jason Kao Hwang: Burning Bridge (2011 , Innova):
Violinist, b. 1957 in New York, worked his way back to his Chinese
roots which ultimately affected his tone, and led him to include pipa
(Sun Li) and erhu (Wang Guowei) in this octet. With Taylor Ho Bynum
(cornet, flugelhorn), Steve Swell (trombone), Joseph Daley (tuba),
Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew Drury (drums) -- a lot of brass to
play off against the strings.
- Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Paal
Nilssen-Love: Kampen (2010 , NoBusiness): Bradford
is a name you should know but may not: b. 1934, plays cornet, is
most legendary for the group he co-led with John Carter. Here he
landed in Oslo, with Frode Gjerstad (clarinet, alto sax) filling
in the Carter role, and the first choice in rhythm sections.
Limited edition vinyl: 300 copies.
- Liudas Mockunas & Barry Guy: Lava (2011 ,
NoBusiness): Duets, saxophonist from Lithuania with a half dozen
albums since 2001, and bassist from England with dozens since 1972,
many as founder and direct or of London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
I've always had trouble with Guy's big bands, but here you get a
chance to actually hear all the sound he can coax from the bull
fiddle, an astonishing range.
- Bill McHenry: La Peur du Vide (2012, Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, studied with George Garzone, dozen albums since
1998, AMG considers him avant-garde but I've always thought of him
as a postbop modernist. Quartet with Orrin Evans on piano, Eric
Revis on drums, and Andrew Cyrille on drums, each in their own way
nudging the saxophonist out of his comfort zone.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Shores and Ditches
(2011 , FMR): From Quebec, alto saxophonist and drummer, have
worked together for well over a decade, and one-on-one their free
improvs are hard to beat. Joining them at various points are guitar
(Daniel Thompson), flute (Neil Metcalfe), and bass (Guillaume Viltard),
which is where the record lags a bit.
- Ernest Dawkins: Afro Straight (2010-12 ,
Delmark): Saxophonist, b. 1953 in Chicago, came up through the AACM,
has a half dozen albums on his own plus many credits, notably with
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Here he goes for something more mainstream,
covering two Coltrane and three Shorter tunes, "Woody 'N You,"
"Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and a really lovely "God Bless
the Child," and he makes a party out of them, with Corey Wilkes
jousting on trumpet, and lots of congas. Two originals: his title
tune, and "Old Man Blues," which he sings in a voice not nearly
old enough -- the only mis-step here.
- The Peggy Lee Band: Invitation (2012, Drip Audio):
Cellist, based in Vancouver, has a half dozen albums since 1999,
mostly with more/less the same group here: Brad Turner (trumpet),
Jon Bentley (tenor sax), Jerome Berkman (trombone), Ron Samworth
(guitar), Tony Wilson (more guitar), Andre Lachance (electric bass),
and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Aside from one by Mary Margaret
O'Hara, all Lee compositions. She spots all the pieces and ties
them together into a melodic suite that classical training dreams
of but almost never achieves. Final piece even reminds me of
- Scott Fields: 5 Frozen Eggs (1996 , Clean Feed):
Avant guitarist, b. 1952, based in Chicago, has about twenty albums
since 1993, several of which have been picked up and reissued by
Clean Feed. Seems like most are cranky solo affairs, but some aren't,
and this one is dominated by Marilyn Crispell's piano, at her iciest,
creating fractured landscapes that Fields, bassist Hans Sturm, and
drummer Hamid Drake trek through.
Juma Sultan's Aboriginal Music Society: Whispers From the
Archive (1970-78 , Porter): B. 1942 in California,
Sultan played percussion with Jimi Hendrix, played with Archie
Shepp on records like Attica Blues, eventually became a
Christian minister. This is the second slice from his archives,
following Father of Origin in 2011 (on Eremite, unheard by
me). These pieces are scattered over the years, the only constant
someone named Ali Abuwi (oboe, flute, percussion), although one
19:20 track doesn't credit either. This kicks off with a 20:45
piece called "AMS," with Sultan on bass, Abuwi on oboe, and
everyone but the guitarist on percussion -- James "Blood" Ulmer
is too busy stealing the show. That's followed by 1:27 of "Shake
Your Money Maker," the first of several vocals that bind the
extended groove pieces to a sense of community. Last two pieces
break out the flutes, and for once I don't mind.
- The Fat Babies: Chicago Hot (2012, Delmark):
Led by bassist Beau Sample, based in Chicago, a "young band"
playing old music, drawing more on Jelly Roll Morton than on
Austin High, but so did the Austin High crowd. Tuba player Mike
Walbridge rates a "special guest" shout out: he was one of the
notable players in what I reckon to be the third generation of
trad jazz musicians, a venerable but still viable link. (His
contemporary, Kim Cusack, did the liner notes.) This group is
more like the fifth generation, but that happens with music
this vital. No matter how much bebop I listen to, I doubt I'll
ever escape the conviction that this is what real jazz sounds
- Medeski Martin & Wood: Free Magic (2012,
Indirecto): Organ trio, been around for twenty-some years, remarkably
popular although John Medeski (keyboards) and Billy Martin (drums)
have a parallel history of dabbling in avant-garde projects. When
they set up their own label and started diving into old live tapes,
they initially reached for the one with John Scofield -- it's their
thing, right? This one is older, coming from their "first-ever
acoustic tour." That mostly means Medeski playing piano, with such
astonishing flair you wonder why he doesn't do more of it. Hype
sheet talks about him "channeling his inner Cecil Taylor," but I
hear as much Bud Powell, and at least a little Jerry Lee. Closes
with a Mingus/Sun Ra medley.
- Holus-Bolus: Pine Barren (2012, Prom Night): Josh
Sinton, plays baritone sax and bass clarinet here, in his Steve Lacy
tribute band Ideal Bread, and elsewhere. Builds most pieces from
rhythmic vamps down low (helped by Peter Bitenc on bass), with vibes
for contrast, occasionally breaking loose with hellacious solo runs --
Jonathan Goldberger's guitar, or more often Jon Irabagon's sax. Seems
to be download-only.
- Kui Dong/Larry Polansky/Christian Wolff: Trio (2012,
Henceforth): Dong is a pianist, b. 1966 in Beijing, China; moved to US
in 1991 and teaches at Dartmouth, as do the others. Wolff, b. 1934 in
France but grew up in the US, also plays piano here. He was influenced
by postclassical composers like John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. I first
ran across him on one of Brian Eno's Obscure Records. Polansky plays
guitar and mandolin -- a way of interjecting some contrasting sounds,
not that the pianos are all that predictable. Improv that would satisfy
Cage, for just that reason.
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: No New Tunes (2012,
Hot Cup): Guitarist, rolled out the Big Five Chord name on his 2003
debut, and is up to five albums now. All originals, not sure whether
they're new or not, but the band has been together for some time,
and return here more imposing than ever: Bryan Murray (tenor sax),
Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), Dan Monaghan (drums).
The sax thrash is as powerful as ever, and the guitar is even sharper.
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: Living Jelly
(2011 , Leo): Tenor sax, guitar, drums, respectively, although
Morris is also an accomplished bassist. His leads are more effective
than Shipp's in the other two albums, probably because the tone of
his guitar lines up more harmonically with the sax -- similarly, his
comping is more transparent. But the leader excels here, uncommonly
eloquent in the slow stretches and as thrilling as ever at high speed.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: The Clairvoyant
(2012, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, drums. Shipp and Dickey were in David S.
Ware's original quartet, and played several duos and trios around that
time (c. 1990). Shipp and the Brazilian saxophonist go back about that
far too, and while Ware may be the model for their interaction, Perelman
has developed his own distinctive voice, especially when he doesn't have
to bring the noise. This is part of the second batch of three albums he's
released this year, the third with Shipp.
- I Compani: Garbo (2011 , Icdisc, 2CD):
Extended title adds: and other Goddesses of Cinema, with
Brigitte Bardot at least as prominent as Garbo. I Compani is
saxophonist Bo van der Graaf's outfit, a group that specializes
in film music -- records on Fellini, Nino Rota, Aida,
Last Tango in Paris, a side trip into Circusism.
The band is large, but only two horns -- the leader's sax and
one trumpet -- with piano/synth, bandoneon, a string section,
vibes, and drums, and some vocals. The first disc is delirious
and exhilarating, especially when the whole group is firing.
The second is a bonus, a live "Tango and Impro" concert in
memory of actress Maria Schneider (1952-2011), featuring big
chunks of Gato Barbieri's heavy-handed Last Tango in Paris
soundtrack. It drags a bit, especially compared with the first
disc. One more caveat: possibly the worst CD packaging ever.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Eric Revis: 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy (2012, Driff):
Very few avant-gardists have had their compositions recorded by others,
much less by tribute bands, but Lacy is well on his way, with two albums
by Ideal Bread, and now this inspired sextet: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax,
lyricon), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Mary Oliver
(violin, viola), Nate McBride (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Seven Lacy
tunes cut at odd angles, the growl of the trombone especially appreciated.
Then closes with Monk's "Locomotive," much as Lacy would have done.
- Karl 2000 (2012, self-released): Avant sax trio: Daniel
Rovin (tenor sax), Austin White (bass), Dave Miller (drums). First album.
They claim Russian folk music and the Alexandrov Ensemble as inspirations,
but you hear more Albert Ayler, which seems more to the point.
- Mort Weiss: I'll Be Seeing You (2012, SMS Jazz):
Clarinetist, eighth album since 2006 when as a 60-year-old he returned
to the instrument he played in his youth, playing bebop and blues with
the grace of swing. With bass and drums and "special guest" Ramon Banda
on conga. Not sure if he's the one singing "Gots the Horn in My Mouth
Blues," or even whether that should be called singing -- an odd break
in the middle of what's otherwise his most accomplished album.
- William Parker: Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings
1976-1987 (1976-87 , No Business, 6CD):
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio: The Gift
(2012, Leo): Case study, where The Clairvoyant was Perelman-Shipp
plus drummer (Whit Dickey), this is the same duo plus bassist (Bisio).
The difference is that when the duo slows down they're more likely to
stall, but over time they find outs -- a little cocktail jazz, a slow
burn, a spot for the bassist -- even solo the saxophonist has little
trouble carrying on, wth his most impressive turn solo.
- Old Time Musketry: Different Times (2011 ,
Steeplechase): Front cover also adds "LookOut" after "SteepleChase,"
suggesting a label variant I can find no other explanation of.
Group is a quartet, based in New York: Adam Schneit (sax, clarinet),
JP Schlegelmilch (piano, accordion, synth, glockenspiel), Phil Rowan
(bass), Max Goldman (drums, melodica). Schneit and Schlegelmilch
split the writing. They go for soft edges, letting the music just
pick you up and sweep you away.
- Matthew Silberman: Questionable Creatures (2012,
DeSoto Sound Factory): Tenor saxophonist, from Santa Monica, CA;
wound up in Brooklyn. Debut album, with two guitarists (Ryan Ferreira
and Greg Ruggiero), bass (Christopher Tordini), and drums (Tommy
Crane). The guitar work is grooveful and sharp, the sax articulate.
One spot blows me away, and none of it disappoints.
- The Group: Live (1986 , NoBusiness): The name,
even with its definite article, doesn't do them justice. They came
out of the New York loft scene, gigged around for a couple years,
and left nothing but this newly discovered masterpiece. The booklet
shows two quintet posters: their May 3 (1986?) "world premier" with
Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Marion Brown (alto sax), Billy Bang (violin),
Sirone (bass), and Andrew Cyrille; and another from Sept. 12-13, 1986,
with Fred Hopkins on bass. This recording, from Sept. 13, uses both
bassists. They play five pieces, with Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"
and Brown's "La Piacita" running 18 minutes each, and Miriam Makeba's
"Amanpondo" at 25 minutes. Bang manages to swing in any or no time;
the two horns mesh intuitively, completing each other's thoughts;
the two bassists have different strong suits, and Cyrille has rarely
had a better day.
- Living by Lanterns: New Myth/Old Science (2011 ,
Cuneiform): Compositions and arrangements by Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and
Mike Reed (drums), "based on unpublished compositions and improvisations
by Sun Ra," and performed by a star-laden band that is plenty capable of
projecting intergalactic imagination: Greg Ward (alto sax), Taylor Ho
Bynum (cornet), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Tomeka Reid (cello), Mary
Halvorson (guitar), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums),
with Nick Butcher adding electronics on two tracks.
- Jeff Johnson: Suitcase (2011 , Origin): Seattle
bassist, one of the label's mainstays, generally a mainstream player
but here he not only moves into postbop, he gives us a practicum in
how much of the avant-garde has been incorporated into the postbop
paradigm. Hans Teuber plays bass clarinet, alto flute, and various
saxes, with Steve Moore on piano and Eric Eagle on drums.
- David Gilmore: Numerology: Live at Jazz Standard
(2010 , Evolutionary Music): Guitarist, b. 1964 in Cambridge,
MA; has a couple previous albums, quite a few side credits -- some
rock (Bryan Ferry, Ringo Starr), most jazz (Steve Coleman, Don Byron,
Wayne Shorter, Rudresh Mahanthappa). Basically a fusion player, with
McLaughlin the obvious model. Picked up an all-star band here: Miguel
Zenón (alto sax), Luis Perdomo (piano), Christian McBride (bass),
Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Mino Cinelu (percussion), Claudia Acuña
(voice). Her contribution is almost too subtle to notice, but the
sax takes the roiling rhythm and goes off on a magnificent romp.
- Chris Hopkins/Bernd Lhotzky: Partners in Crime
(2012, Echoes of Swing): Piano duets. Lhotzky, b. 1970 in Bavaria.
Hopkins, b. 1972 in Princeton, moved to Germany at age six. Both
lean toward swing, with Lhotzky owning one of the Arbors Piano
Series records. This is delightful, especially when they get into
familiar territory, like "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'."
- Cristina Pato: Migrations (2011 , Sunnyside):
B. 1980 in Ourense, Galicia, Spain; plays piano, flute, sings a bit --
attractive, seductive voice -- but her main instrument is the gaita,
or Gallician bagpipes -- smaller, more manageable, less irritating
than the familiar Scottish variety. Band includes accordion, bass,
and drums, and there is a parade of guests on harp (Edmar Castaneda),
violin, tabla, bouzouki, cello, etc.
- William Hooker Quintet: Channels of Consciousness
(2010 , NoBusiness): Drummer, b. 1946 in Connecticut, has at
least 25 albums since 1982, avant-garde, at least way out on the
margins. Chris DiMeglio does a nice job of adding trumpet scratch,
Dave Ross (guitar) and Adam Lane (bass) churn things up, and the
drummer claims most of the focus, supplemented by Sanga's percussion.
- Rudresh Mahanthappa: Gamak (2012 , ACT):
Alto sax quartet, with electric guitar (David Fiuczynski), acoustic
bass (François Moutin), and drums (Dan Weiss). This fits a trend of
groups (often bass-less trios) where the guitar, rather than expanding
the harmony, like piano has traditionally done -- both pushes the sax
into a frenzy and can take a solo spot beside it, like a second horn.
So not pathbreaking, but, of course, he does it better than almost
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Slippery Rock!
(2012 , Hot Cup): Peter Evans (trumpets), Jon Irabagon (saxes,
including sopranino and a bit of flute), Moppa Elliott (bass), Kevin
Shea (drums). Fourth album on Elliott's Hot Cup label -- also a live
double on Clean Feed -- breaking a string of two classic album cover
spoofs with what looks like a teen boy group splash, and less history
in the songlist (unless "President Polk" counts -- "Dexter, Wayne and
Mobley" sure does, then blows them up and scampers away). Too bad my
eyes can't hack Leonard Featherweight's liner notes, always a source
of high-minded obfuscation. That leaves me to draw my own far-fetched
analogies: this is slippery in the sense that it follows no discernible
time signature, rock in the sense that it is loud and frantic, and that
attitude prevails. All these years of waiting for jazz-rock fusion,
and what do we get? Fission!
- Harvie S/Kenny Barron: Witchcraft (2012 , Savant):
Bass-piano duets, the bass claiming enough space to even out the piano's
natural volume edge. Plus Barron, as you no doubt recall from his early
work with Stan Getz, is an attentive as well as remarkable accompanist.
- Matthew Shipp: Greatest Hits (2000-2012 ,
Thirsty Ear): Before 2000 Shipp had established himself as one
of the avant-garde's most rigorous pianists through a series of
often startling duo and trio albums -- mostly duos. Most were
on the usual obscure European labels, but a couple -- ranging
from the tedious 2-Z with Roscoe Mitchell to the superb
Zo with bassist William Parker -- came out on a postrock
label in Connecticut. Thirsty Ear wound up hiring Shipp to curate
"The Blue Series": think of them as postrock crossovers made by
Shipp's avant chums plus a few secretly admiring DJs. Early on,
the series tracked public interest in "jazztronica" -- but unlike
the previous decade's "acid jazz" fad or the later dabblings of
more-or-less mainstream figures ranging from Nicholas Payton to
Dave Douglas -- Shipp's series never felt like a compromise. But
later on, Shipp seemed to grow weary of the electronics and tried
to reassert himself as an acoustic jazz pianist (especially on
the solos One and 4D and the mixed solo-trio Art
of the Improviser). Of course, nothing he did was a "hit" in
the pop sense, but these dozen cuts from eleven albums both hit
the high points and drive home the primacy of his piano.
- Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Reggie Nicholson: Nasty &
Sweet (1998-99 , NoBusiness, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist
(credited with "reeds" here), b. 1955 in Germany; not much discography
but he does have a 1999 CIMP album with this same trio (credited there
as BMN Trio) and a 2003 bash with Brötzmann. This was released as
limited (400 copy) vinyl only, and I'm working off CDRs. First disc
lives up to the title, and the second starts with a piece from the
same date. The 1998 session only slows down toward the end, for a long
bass solo and a little sax dirge.
- Chris Potter: The Sirens (2012 , ECM): The
quintessential postbop tenor saxophonist for twenty-some years now,
after which he's still only 42, he can blow you away, but rarely
does. His "first ECM record" is a frothy little thing propped up
with riches -- for example, he couldn't decide between pianists
Craig Taborn and David Virelles so went with both.
- Iron Dog: Interactive Album Rock (2012, self-released):
Sarah Bernstein writes poems/texts, recites them through some kind of
electronic processor, same for her violin. Second album as Iron Dog with
Stuart Popejoy on bass/synth and Andrew Drury on drums -- first was a
2011 release called Field Recordings Vol. 1 dating from 2005-06 --
plus one album under her own name (Unearthish, worth checking out).
This has an industrial tone but is more/less improvised.
- Elina Duni Quartet: Matanë Malit (2012, ECM): Singer,
b. 1981 in Albania, left when she was 10 but returns through this mostly
trad. songbook. Second album, this one backed by Colin Vallon's piano
trio, providing understated but more than competent support, without
traditional instruments or oriental sonorities. This puts all the focus
on Duni's voice, dark and torchy, sombre or smoldering.
B+(***) [advance: Oct. 16]
- Carrie Wicks: Barely There (2012, OA2): Singer-songwriter,
originally from New Jersey, wound up in Seattle; second album; four covers
(Townes Van Zandt, Pee Wee King, Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein II), nine
originals co-credited to Ken Nottingham (not in the band). Band includes
label regulars Bill Anschell and Jeff Johnson; one cut features accordion,
and Hans Teuber consistently adds tasty clarinet and tenor sax. She has a
sly voice which grows on you, and the closing standards drive home the
- David Greenberger/Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound: They Like Me
Around Here (2012 , Pel Pel): Spoken word, the words
collected from interviews with old folks in nursing homes -- at some
point in all of Greenberger's albums I belatedly realize that his
homogenized voice is channeling a much more varied group of people,
usually when one of those people has to be female. A year and a few
months ago Greenberger released four albums with different musicians.
I found they all sort of flowed into each other, but the consensus
pick -- Christgau and Tatum, anyway -- was the one with Paul Cebar
(and Mark Greenberg). This time there's just one, with Cebar taking
charge, his music varied, inventive, sometimes exotic -- tasteful
horn charts, lots of percussion, field recordings.
- Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra: Bloom (2011 ,
19/8): From Japan, moved to New York in 2005 and rounded up this
crackling 18-piece big band, for which she is composer, arranger,
conductor -- after guitar-bass-piano (acoustic and electric) the
18th "piece" is vocalist Sara Serpa. Fine textures and intriguing
details, some strong reeds. Wonder whether this will attract the
attention Maria Schneider enjoys, but I'm evidently unfit to tell.
- Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran: Hagar's Song (2012 ,
ECM): Duo, the venerable saxophonist and one of the most accomplished
young pianists of the last decade -- some of those feats coming in
Lloyd's Quartet, so this isn't a stab at an odd pairing. No bass or
drums lets Lloyd take his time, especially delighting in melodies
like "Mood Indigo" and "God Only Knows." Some flute, but it fits
- Billy Martin's Wicked Knee: Heels Over Head (2012 ,
Amulet): Drummer, best known as the middleman in Medeski, Martin &
Wood; has released a large pile of specialist albums, but nothing like
this before. Here he's lined up a small brass band -- Steven Bernstein
(trumpet, slide trumpet), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) --
and gone back to New Orleans, at least for King Oliver's "Sugarfoot Stomp"
although they jump off with a Frank London piece called "Chumba Zumba,"
and never settle into anything obvious or derivative. Bernstein does
most of the arranging, and Rojas takes most of the leads. And lest you
think that I think every vocal incursion is a waste, check out Shelley
Hirsch's song about hobbling through an Occupy Wall Street march as
one of the "99%."
- Michel Lambert: Journal des Épisodes (2010-12 ,
Jazz From Rant): Drummer, from Quebec, has played with François Carrier
for well over a decade, also in a group called Maïkotron Unit. This is
a piano trio, with Alexandre Grogg on piano and Guillaume Bouchard on
bass. The 67:19 recording comprises 92 "episodes," some as short as
seven seconds, the median most likely in the twenties, a couple
venturing past three minutes, one clocking in at 5:54. Aside from some
clash near the beginning, they flow neatly enough to be taken as a
whole, as indeed most days do.
- Barry Altschul: The 3Dom Factor (2012 , TUM):
Drummer, b. 1943, joined Paul Bley's trio in 1965; c. 1970 played
with Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Anthony Braxton in and out of
Circle -- Holland's Conference of the Birds was the era's
masterpiece; his discography thins out in the 1980s although he's
popped up a few times recently: in the FAB Trio with Joe Fonda and
Billy Bang; on Sam Rivers' Reunion with Holland; as "special
guest" on Jon Irabagon's Foxy. I think this is his first
headline album since 1986, but it's basically the flip side of
Foxy, a sax trio with Irabagon and Fonda, with nine of his
originals (plus one from Carla Bley). Not as fun as Foxy
or as flamboyand as Irabagon is on Slippery Rock -- 2013's
early best-of-year favorite -- but superb nonetheless, with
plenty of reason to focus on the drummer.
- Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Lower East Side
(2009 , Posi-Tone): Mainstream pianist, from Israel, based
in New York, playing standards with tenor sax -- in fact, about
the closest thing you can get these days to Coleman Hawkins.
They did this last year on Upper West Side, and these
are basically the leftovers, probably from the same session --
less famous, and less obvious, songs, although they saved "When
I Grow Too Old to Dream" for a closer. For me, this is what jazz
sounds like, and although I rated other albums higher than I did
Upper West Side, I didn't play any of them more often.
More is more.
- Ben Sidran: Don't Cry for No Hipster (2012 ,
Unlimited Media): Pianist-singer-songwriter, b. 1943, started out
in rock, especially with the Steve Miller Band, before eventually
evolving into an "existential jazz rapper." Two dozen albums since
1971, first I've heard, first impression is that he's following
Mose Allison, his "Hipster" skilled at getting gone, but sheltering
a "Rich Interior Life." One cover: always good to hear "Sixteen
- Anders Nilsson/Joe Fonda/Peter Nilsson: Powers
(2012, Konnex): Guitar-bass-drums trio. Anders Nilson has several
excellent albums -- Blood, Aorta Ensemble, his
Kalabalik meet up with Raoul Björkenheim -- and makes a
strong impression as a sideman, but loses a bit of edge here,
probably because the bassist tries to steer this into open improv
waters, finding an interesting balance.
- Peter Evans: Zebulon (2010 , More Is More):
Trumpet player, best known as one of the terrorists in Mostly Other
People Do the Killing, but has a handful of records on his own,
mostly more avant than the band's. Trio, with the ever-dependable
John Hébert on bass and Kassa Overall on drums. Trumpet stabs, zips,
kicks it up a notch, then another one.
- Scott Hamilton: Remembering Billie (2012 ,
Blue Duchess): Tenor saxophonist, once a "young fogey" but getting
on now. His connection to Billie Holiday is through Lester Young --
I vaguely recall that he actually plays one of Young's old saxes.
Songs Holiday recorded, half-a-dozen titles I can recall perfectly
well but only the exquisite "God Bless the Child" makes me think
of Holiday (as opposed to Hamilton) while playing. Duke Robillard
plays guitar on two cuts, and "I'll Never Be the Same" is a gem.
- The Kahil El'Zabar Quartet: What It Is! (2012 ,
Delmark): Chicago drummer, has twenty-some albums since 1982, many
as Ethnic Heritage Ensemble; always interesting, but his best albums
were lifted by bigger names -- David Murray on Love Outside of
Dreams (1997), Billy Bang on Spirits Entering (2001).
This time he goes with players I'm only barely familiar with --
Kevin Nabors (tenor sax), Justin Dillard (keybs), Junius Paul
(bass) -- they have some side credits with Ernest Dawkins and
Corey Wilkes. Nabors, in particular, has a strong voice, one
you'll be hearing more from.
- Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Beautiful Friendship
(2010 , Planet Arts): The leader play guitar and bass. Third
group album, although Ferguson also played on Dempsey's 1998 debut.
Rounding out the quartet are Eliot Zigmund on drums and Joel Frahm
on tenor and soprano sax. The latter has long been a superb accompanist
and is the main reason to tune in here, but the leaders move it along
- Steve Kuhn: The Vanguard Date (1986 ,
Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1938, cut his first album in 1963; AMG
lists 47 albums. This trio with Ron Carter and Al Foster was
originally released on Owl, with the liner notes now buried
somewhere in the data tracks. A fine set, about half originals,
ending with a lovely solo "Lullaby."
- Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Functional Arrhythmias
(2012 , Pi): Alto saxophonist, b. 1956, has used Five Elements
as his primary group name since 1986, thirteen albums in all. Many
explore funk/fusion beats, some are muddied up with vocals, the last
couple I didn't care for at all. But this one is stripped way down:
two wavering horns (Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet), bass and drums
that fully implement the title, a little extra guitar (Miles Okazaki)
on 5 of 14 tracks. Maybe too simple, but rarely has the continuous
shifting of time come through so clearly -- one could say, functional.
- Ches Smith & These Arches: Hammered (2012
, Clean Feed): Drummer, has a couple albums under his own name, a lot of
side credits since 2001 on various avant and left-field projects --
Ben Goldberg, Mary Halvorson, Darius Jones, Marc Ribot, Jason Robinson.
Wrote all the pieces here for two roughhousing saxes (Tim Berne and
Tony Malaby), with Halvorson (guitar) and Andrea Parkins (accordion,
electronics) supporting, sometimes as cross purposes.
- Robert Hurst: Bob: A Palindrome (2001 , Bebob):
Bassist, b. 1964 in Detroit, six albums since 1992 including two
Unrehurst compilations, side credits include Wynton Marsalis.
Draws in some big names here: Branford Marsalis (tenor/soprano sax),
Bennie Maupin (alto flute, bass clarinet, tenor/soprano sax), Marcus
Belgrave (trumpet/flugelhorn), Robert Glasper (piano/rhodes), Jeff
"Tain" Watts (drums), Adam Rudolph (percussion). No track credits,
not that it's hard to sort out the saxophonists. Liner notes mentions
almost in passing that this was "originally recorded" in 2001: makes
me wonder: (a) typo? (b) is this a newer recording? Everyone else
goes way back, but Glasper would have been 23, two years shy of his
debut. All Hurst pieces, at least one dating to 1985. No edge to
the opening flute, but this picks up strength as its many facets
emerge, even a thrilling bit of free thrash.
- John Stein: Bing Bang Boom (2012 , Whaling City
Sound): Guitarist, has more than ten records since 1995, usually tight
groove pieces with a characteristic grain of metal, ups his game a bit
with this quartet -- Jake Sherman keybs, John Lockwood bass, Zé Eduardo
Nazario drums -- making me think of John Scofield.
- Arnaoudov/Szymanski/Stefens/Pärt/Xenakis/Minchev: Sonograms
(1974-97 , Labor): Those are the composers as their names appear
on the cover and spine. They are postmodern/postclassical, and their
pieces are performed by several Bulgarian musicians, usually solo,
especially Benedikta Bonitz (recorders: 7 pieces) and Angela Tosheva
(piano: also 7 pieces). There is one piece for string quartet (Steffens),
one of the recorder pieces adds cello and Khandjari, another triangles,
and one scales up to four recorders. Not quite minimalist nor merely
abstract, the piano pieces have some teeth to them, and the recorders
provide a nice contrast. I don't get much music like this these days,
so it's hard to judge.
- Eli Yamin/Evan Christopher: Louie's Dream: For Our Jazz
Heroes (2012 , Yamin Music): Pianist, b. 1968 in
Long Island, has a handful of records since 1998's Pushin'
30, teams up with the clarinetist for salutes to Armstrong,
Bechet, Ellington, Bigard, Mary Lou Williams, Mahalia Jackson,
John Coltrane, and Amiri Baraka, plus a couple pieces recycled
from Yamin's Holding the Torch for Liberty.
- Mikrokolektyw: Absent Minded (2012 , Delmark):
Duo, from Wroclaw, Poland: Artur Majewski (trumpet, cornet) and Kuba
Suchar (drums, percussion), both with electronics, which is to say
pretty comparable to Chicago Underground Duo (Rob Mazurek and Chad
Taylor). Second album, at least on Delmark. Starts slow, agonizing
drones mostly, but the pieces work out various rhythmic ideas, and
in the end it depends on what the trumpet can do with, and beyond,
them -- a lesson from Miles Davis' funk period, applies here too.
- Tomasz Stanko NY Quartet: Wislawa (2012 , ECM,
2CD): Another set by the great Polish trumpeter, who started out on
the avant-garde and moderated by age (70) and label still remains one
of the world's most distinctive. A few years back he came up with a
"young Polish quartet" who continue to work as a piano trio. Here he
is traveling alone, picking up a band of locals, which in New York
nets him Gerald Cleaver, Thomas Morgan, and a new pianist everyone
seems to want to play with these days, David Virelles. Talented as
they are, they tend to be deferential, but then it's the trumpet you
want to hear anyway. By the way, "Wislawa" is Nobel Prize-winning
poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012).
- Samuel Blaser Quartet: As the Sea (2011 ,
Hatology): Trombonist, from Switzerland, has a handful of albums
since 2007. Quartet includes Marc Ducret on guitar, Bänz Oester
on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. One title, four parts, 51:14
total. Starts slow and tentative, but builds up in interesting
ways, especially when the guitarist works up a sweat, giving the
trombone something to bounce off. Second album I've heard by him,
but looks like he has a fair sampling on Bandcamp, including a
solo: someone to explore further.
- Monica Ramey: And the Beegie Adair Trio (2012 ,
Adair Music Group): Standards singer, second album, rolls out 14 songs,
72 minutes, backed by Adair's piano trio plus horn spots for George
Tidwell (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Dennis Soles (saxes, flute). As is
often the case, this rises or slips on the songs -- "I Thought About
You" caught my ear, then the pairing of "Witchcraft" and "This Could
Be the Start of Something Big" -- but she frames them nicely, can turn
on the gusto or sass or take a delicate ballad. The band does the job,
which is all it really takes.
- Edward Simon Trio: Live in New York at Jazz Standard
(2010 , Sunnyside): Pianist, from Venezuela, a dozen or so
albums since 1993, at least three with this trio: John Patitucci
(bass) and Brian Blade (drums). Live they stretch out on five long
pieces, three Simon originals and covers of Jobim and Coltrane.
Bright, lively piano jazz.
- The Engines w/John Tchicai: Other Violets (2011-12
, Not Two): Chicago quartet -- Dave Rempis (saxes), Jeb Bishop
(trombone), Nate McBride (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums) -- playing
live with the soon-to-be-late Afro-Danish saxophonist John Tchicai.
Gets off to a rather slow start, perhaps the band too deferential to
their guest, or their guest slow to suss out the band, but it picks
up significantly toward the end.
- Reinmar Henschke: On Air (2009 , Ozella):
Pianist, b. 1959 in Germany; looks like his eighth album since
1988, although this is the only one AMG lists. Piano and keyb
tracked with percussion and electronics, with bits of guest sax,
vibes, guitar, percussion, clarinet, flute. Before I could sneer
"pop jazz" it started growing on me, the rhythm figures hypnotic,
the piano a bit sumptuous. One vocal, in English by Pascal von
Wroblewsky (a name to remember) is a plus.
- Reg Schwager/Michel Lambert: Trio Improvisations
(2001-02 , Jazz From Rant): Guitarist Schwager was b. 1962 in Netherlands,
moved to New Zealand when he was 3, moved again at 6 to Canada, based now
in Toronto. Has a handful of albums since 1985. Drummer Lambert plays with
François Carrier and Maïkotron Unit. To make a trio they add Misha Mengelberg
(piano), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), or Michael Stuart (sax, probably tenor)
for three improv cuts each. Mengelberg and Wheeler are very famous and
acquit themselves well. Stuart isn't famous: b. 1948 in Jamaica, moved to
Toronto in 1969, did a tour with Elvin Jones but has scant discography.
(AMG gives him a couple dozen credits, but many are for engineering
classical recordings, and some are dubious -- e.g., playing percussion
on Love's Forever Changes.) His cuts are as strong as the stars',
making him someone I'd like to hear more from.
- The Kandinsky Effect: Synesthesia (2011 ,
Cuneiform): Sax trio, based in Paris, recorded this debut album
in Iceland. Walter Walker, from California, is credited with
"saxophone/effects," writes most of the pieces. Gaël Petrina
(bass, effects), from Argentina, and Caleb Dollister (drums,
laptop), from Reno or Nashville or Los Angeles and based in New
York, complete the trio. Rhythm veers toward jazztronica without
being overly electronic, just enough to provide a stable base
for Walker to riff over.
- Jacky Terrasson: Gouache (2012 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1966 in Germany, has about 15 albums since breaking in
on Blue Note in 1994. Very eclectic here, trying lots of things --
some electric, a few cuts with bass clarinet (Michel Portal) or
flugelhorn (Stephane Belmondo), two vocal cuts (Cécile McLorin
Salvant), non-vocal covers of Justin Bieber and Amy Winehouse, a
couple pieces that celebrate his own fleetness (one called "Try
to Catch Me"). Pretty much all works, too.
- Anthony Branker & Word Play: Uppity (2012 ,
Origin): Composer, originally played trumpet but stopped after a medical
problem; studied at Princeton, Miami, and Columbia, and directs the jazz
program at Princeton. Sixth album, second with this group: Ralph Bowen
(tenor sax) and Jim Ridl (piano) are the names you've likely heard of,
plus trumpet (Eli Asher), trombone (Andy Hunter), bass (Kenny Davis),
and drums (Donald Edwards). First two cuts are terrific, upbeat things
just bubbling over. Less impressive when he gets solemn, with uncredited
strings (Hunter also has a keyb credit) and Charmaine Lee's vocal fills
on a Nigeria-themed number, but it builds to an impressive swell, whereas
his similar "Ballad for Trayvon Martin" goes for elegiac simplicity.
- Aguankó: Elemental (2012 , RKO): Alberto
Nacif, conguero (plays congas), b. in Mexico, based in Michigan,
has been in groups like Tumbao and Tumbao Bravo. First album for
this group, with Jose Espinosa (b. in Havana, Cuba) on bongos,
timbales, and guiro; Paul Finkbeiner on trumpet, Chris Smith on
trombone, Wesley Reynoso on piano, and various others. Afro-Cuban
jazz, sometimes relaxes a bit but feels plenty authentic to me.
- Rob Mazurek Octet: The Skull Sessions (2011 ,
Cuneiform): Chicago-based cornet player, part of Chicago Underground,
also São Paulo Underground, combines both angles here and then some.
The Brazilian contingent: Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho [a ukulele],
percussion), Guilherme Granado (keyboards, electronica), Thomas Rohrer
(rabeca [a fiddle], C melody sax), and Carlos Issa (guitar, electronics).
From Chicago: Nicole Mitchell (piccolo, flute, voice), Jason Adasiewicz
(vibes), John Herndon (drums), and Mazurek. Combination is busy, noisy,
chaotic. Helps to focus on the cornet, which usually soars above, or
the sheer energy vibe, especially when the cornet is engulfed.
- Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes (2012 ,
Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist, has recorded since the 1980s, more
so since he's approached retirement age. Quartet adds a second
horn -- Michael Vlatkovich's trombone -- to bass (Clyde Reed) and
drums (son Carson Halley).
- Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York II (2013, Prime Source):
Sax-organ trio, with Gary Versace on the B3 and Gerald Cleaver on drums;
second album together, the first dedicated to the tenor saxophonist's
organ-playing mother. Likewise, this one is all standards, with a Monk
piece, ohers like "Just One of Those Things," "After You've Gone," and
"Flamingo." Versace stays clear of the usual soul jazz moves, giving
this an odd delicacy, undercutting the spark but bringing out some of
Eskelin's most poignant ballad craft.
- Dave Douglas Quintet: Time Travel (2012 ,
Greenleaf Music): Same lineup as last year's Be Still -- Jon
Irabagon (tenor sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass), Rudy
Royston (drums) -- minus the singer and the solemn tone, which gives
them space to repeatedly flare out, even if the compositional matrix
is the same fancy, slippery postbop Douglas has honed for years.
The main thing you get is chops: he remains in a class by himself,
so confident he's game to take on the hottest saxophonist he can
find -- Potter, McCaslin, Strickland, now Irabagon, who is having
one helluva year.
- Curtis Hasselbring: Number Stations (2012 ,
Cuneiform): Trombonist, studied at New England Conservatory and
played in Boston bands like Either/Orchestra, then moved to New
York, recorded in groups as disparate as Slavic Soul Party and
Ballin' the Jack, finally recording his own album as The New
Mellow Edwards. That band name is "featured" here, on his
third album, and they're a motley bunch: Chris Speed (tenor sax,
clarinet), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass), Matt
Moran (vibes, marimba), and two drummer/percussionists: Ches
Smith and Satoshi Takeishi. Compositions have something to do
with numeric codings read off shortwave radio broadcasts, but
what you get is a mish-mash studded with brilliant solos, much
as you'd expect if a band this talented just winged it.
- John Vanore & Abstract Truth: Culture (2012 ,
Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, came up in Woody Herman's band,
should explain his taste in bright and brassy. Fourth album with his
unconventional big band Abstract Truth. Pieces include a 3-part suite
and an arrangement of "Footprints." Strong solos, some interesting
quirks in the arrangements.
- Kaylé Brecher: Spirals and Lines (2012, Penchant Four):
Singer, based in Philadelphia, fifth album since 1992. Don't see song
credits but most seem to be originals -- obvious covers are "When Johnny
Goes Marching Home" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," but she segues
the latter into a corny patriotic anthem ("The House I Live In") and
updates a Mingus blues for the white collar world. Long list of
musicians, none I had heard of, shuttle in and out, including four
trumpet/flugelhorn players and three trombonists but her favorite
accompanist is Jimmy Parker on sousaphone -- mine too.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of the Duet, Volume
One (2012 , Leo): The Brazilian avant-saxophonist has
been releasing records at a furious pace recently, including two
batches of three each last year, and three more recently. All of
this batch include Shipp, who played piano in David S. Ware's
now-legendary quartet among much else, including a 1996 duet with
Perelman (Bendito of Santa Cruz). Over the last two years
no one has produced more top flight music than Perelman, but I'm
starting to wonder if we're getting too much of the same thing.
At least that's where I was stuck on the two new quartet albums,
but the duets here are clear and sparkling, both sides coherent
and connected. Not that the inevitable Volume Two won't
be too much . . . On to the quartets.
- Ivo Perelman: Serendipity (2011 , Leo):
Another tenor sax quartet, reportedly accidental: session was
originally scheduled to be trio with Matthew Shipp (piano) and
Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- that trio was recorded a week later
as The Foreign Legion -- but when one was late they
called in bassist William Parker and wound up with a quartet.
Sometimes hard to judge exactly what Parker adds, but Perelman
is remarkably relaxed and fluid from the start, and builds up
to some of his most impressive blowing ever.
- Jim Snidero: Stream of Consciousness (2012 ,
Savant): Alto saxophonist, 17 albums since 1987, generally a
mainstream/postbop guy, but looking for "strong, free-spirited
younger players" this time, coming up with Paul Bollenback (guitar),
Linda Oh (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Actually, he winds up
running away from them more often than not.
- Barbara Morrison: A Sunday Kind of Love (2010-12
, Savant): Singer, b. 1952 in Michigan, got her start opposite
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson in 1974, toiled a couple decades in the
Johnny Otis Show, has a dozen records since 1995. I haven't heard
any of them, but would be real surprised if any hold a candle to
this one. The secret isn't a fine-but-who-are-they pianio trio --
Stuart Elster? Richard Simon? Lee Spath? -- so it must be Houston
Person, who is more than just featured here. But it's the singer
who hits one softball after another out of the park: "I'm Just a
Lucky So and So," "The Green Door," "A Sunday Kind of Love," "On
the Sunny Side of the Street," "Let's Stay Together" -- only "I
Cover the Waterfront" is out of her zone. Exquisite: the medley
of "Smile/Make Someone Happy." I dare anyone not to.
- Duo Baars-Henneman: Autumn Songs (2012 , Wig):
Ig Henneman on viola, Ab Baars on tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi.
Henneman tends to lead, pushing the limits of high lonesome. Baars
is complementary, especially on clarinet.
- Ross Hammond Quartet: Cathedrals (2013, Prescott):
Guitarist, based in Sacramento, CA; has a handful of albums. Last
cut here is a duet with drummer Alex Cline, a good chance to hone
in on Hammond's attractive technique. But the rest of the album is
dominated by Vinny Golia (tenor and soprano sax, flute) in an amazing
tour de force that reduces Cline to keeping metronomic time. Steuart
Liebig plays bass.
- Michael Bates/Samuel Blaser Quintet: One From None
(2011 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist and trombone, leaders
because they do the writing, 5-3 in favor of Bates if you're counting.
Each as 3-5 records already, solid work, as is this. Band includes
Michael Blake (sax), Russ Lossing (keybs), and Jeff Davis (drums).
- Craig Taborn Trio: Chants (2012 , ECM):
Pianist, from Minneapolis; cut an early album for DIW in 1994,
two "Blue Series" albums that established his reputation as one
of the few distinctive electric keyb players in jazz, a couple
avant exercises on European labels (Clean Feed and ILK), and a
very well received acoustic solo for ECM. This trio, with Thomas
Morgan and Gerald Cleaver, should be his crowning success, but
I keep coming up a bit short with it.
- Geof Bradfield: Melba! (2012 , Origin): Tenor
saxophonist (also credited with soprano sax and bass clarinet here),
fourth album since 2003, a tribute to trombonist and big band arranger
Melba Liston (noting also that two songs are named after band leaders
she worked for: Dizzy Gillespie and Randy Weston). Septet includes
two brass (trumpet and trombone), Jeff Parker on guitar, and Ryan
Cohan on piano, with Bradfield the sole reed player. The arrangements
swing, the horns slide. Ends with a brief Maggie Burrell vocal.
- Nick Fraser: Towns and Villages (2012 , Barnyard):
Drummer, based in Toronto, has at least one previous album under his own
name, several as Drumheller, a dozen or so side credits. Quartet, modeled
loosely on Ornette Coleman's recent two-bass quartet, this one with Rob
Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello. They provide an ever
shifting substrate for the horn: Tony Malaby on tenor (and soprano) sax
gives a bravo performance, one of his finest ever.
- Carlos Alves "Zingaro"/Jean Luc Cappozzo/Jerome Bourdellon/Nicolas
Lelievre: Live at Total Meeting (2010 , NoBusiness):
Violin, trumpet/bugle, flutes/bass clarinet, percussion, respectively,
a prickly combination. Zingaro, b. 1948 in Portugal, came out of the
postclassical avant-garde with a long discography. Cappozzo has a few
albums, including one with Herb Robertson called Passing the Torch.
Don't know the others, but the drummer is terrific, someone to watch
out for. Three long improv pieces, difficult but dazzling, kept a smile
on my face all the way through.
- Uri Caine/Han Bennink: Sonic Boom (2010 , 816
Music): Piano-drums duet, going by the order on the spine instead of
the front cover. Recorded on the drummer's home ground -- "live at the
Bimhuis" -- with Bennink's artwork both inside and out. Looks like
joint improvs aside from "'Round Midnight," which isn't the only debt
to Monk. The drummer is especially superb, and Caine gets hotter and
harder as he learns the ropes.
- Charnett Moffett: The Art of Improvisation (2009,
Motéma): Checking on his new record, I noticed that I had never
rated this old one, which I only got an advance promo of and file
it in a queue that I almost never look at -- a risk that wouldn't
have happened had they sent me a final copy. (Actually, this is
two records back; never got the intervening Treasure in
any shape or form.) Don't have the credits, so I don't know how
chores were split up between two guitarists and three drummers,
or which bass Moffett plays where -- my impression is that the
fretless bass guitar gets a workout here. All originals, except
for a Langston Hughes poem spoken by Angela Moffett and a warbly
"Star Spangled Banner"; one more vocal is by Yungchen Lhamo --
no clue what the language is. The bass is always prominent, driving
the groove, incorporating the world, and elaborating on it.
- Hush Point: Hush Point (2013, Sunnyside): Postbop
pianoless quartet, the two horns John McNeil's trumpet and Jeremy
Udden's alto sax, with Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza
on drums. I initially assumed this would be McNeil's show -- he's
about 30 years senior -- but Udden outwrote him 4-to-3, Kobrinsky
pitched in, and they picked up two Jimmy Giuffre tunes that seem
like a shared connection. The hornwork is tight and sly, the rhythm
slippery. Nothing spectacular, but could well grow on you.
- Steven Lugerner: For We Have Heard (2013,
NoBusiness/Primary): Plays double reeds, clarinets, flutes, saxes.
Second album, after his ambitious 2-CD debut (also has a group
record, Dads, by Chives). Quartet with Darren Johnston on
trumpet, Myra Melford on piano, and Matt Wilson on drums. Strong
soloists in their rare spots, but the compositions come first, with
most of the album is woven around the leader's intricate reeds.
- Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moment & the
Message (2012 , Pi): Trumpet player, first album after
quality side credits with Steve Lehman, Steve Coleman, Tomas Fujiwara,
and -- most likely; still haven't heard the album -- Mary Halvorson.
Quintet with Miles Okazaki (guitar), David Virelles (piano), Keith
Witty (bass), and Damion Reid (drums). No second horn keeps his out
front, while the guitar and piano players are rising stars, sparkling
soloists with an intriguingly complex interplay.
- Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio + Jeb Bishop: The Flame Alphabet
(2011 , Not Two): Bishop is the Chicago-based trombone player
who left the Vandermark Five about five years ago, and has kept busy
since then mostly guesting on projects where he easily adds to the
noise level -- his tour with Cactus Truck is fresh on my mind -- but
here he takes the lead without the least bit of slop in a showcase
of avant-trombone that would turn the heads of Steve Swell, or for
that matter Roswell Rudd: a huge improvement over Bishop's previous
album with Portuguese tenor saxophonist Amado's trio, Burning
Live at Jazz ao Centro. And Amado is sharp as ever, ably backed
by Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums.
- Laszlo Gardony: Clarity (2012 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1956 in Hungary, came to US in 1983 to study at Berklee.
Tenth album since 1986, a solo, all original material, inching up
to a strong rhythmic vamp at the end.
- Freddy Cole: This and That (2012 , High Note):
Nat's little brother, 14 years junior which makes him 81 now, finally
found his mature voice a few years back and has been on a steady roll.
Backed by pianist John Di Martino, with tasty guitar by arranger Randy
Napoleon, and select sax and trombone spots. Scrounging a bit for songs
he hasn't done before, but he even makes something of "Everybody's
- Marc Bernstein & Good People: Hymn for Life
(2012 , Origin): Saxophonist, from New York but based in
Denmark, lead instrument here is bass clarinet. Fourth album since
1999, quartet with Jacob Anderskov (piano), Jonas Westergaard (bass),
and Rakalam Bob Moses (drums), plus featured singer Sinne Eeg. She
has a remarkable voice, dark and smoky.
- Satoko Fujii New Trio: Spring Storm (2013, Libra):
Japanese pianist, has a lot of albums but not many conventional piano
trios. This one has Todd Nicholson on bass and Takashi Itani on drums.
Some fine examples of her impressive block chording and much more in
a more melodic vein.
- Black Host: Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (2013,
Northern Spy): Drummer Gerald Cleaver gets first listing on the
cover, has all the song credits except one joint improv and one
piece by Bartok. The other names are draws: Darius Jones (alto
sax), Cooper-Moore (piano, synth), Brandon Seabrook (guitar), and
Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). Jones is a powerhouse who likes to get
plug ugly (as on his Little Women albums) yet can make something
sublime out of the chaos (see his own albums, although I still
can't vouch for Book of Mae'bul), although the most striking
solos are the guitarist's.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/John Edwards/Steve Beresford:
Overground to the Vortex (2011 , Not Two): Alto
sax, drums, bass, piano; Carrier and Lambert from Montreal, have
played together regularly since the 1990s; the others from England,
where this was recorded. Four long pieces, group credits (although
Beresford is only listed on the last two -- no credits given, but
the latter half is where the piano is most evident). Carrier is
superb, as usual: always searching, often finding.
- Wheelhouse: Boss of the Plains (2010 , Aerophonic):
Chicago trio: Dave Rempis (alto/baritone sax), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes),
Nate McBride (bass). Avant, of course, but not especially fast or noisy,
the bass a steadying influence, the bari sax meant to be moody.
- The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx (2012 ,
Aerophonic): Dave Rempis, first appeared in the Vandermark 5 on alto
sax but is equally adept at tenor and soprano; one of the most impressive
saxophonists to appear in the last decade. His main vehicle over the
past five years has been this quartet, with two drummers (Frank Rosaly
and Tim Daisy) and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. I've only heard the
previous records on Rhapsody or Bandcamp -- Flaten has a tremendous
selection of his work on the latter -- and the one-two play regimen
has invariably left them just shy of my A-lists, which is where this
live double -- 53 minutes in Milwaukee and 75 in Antwerp -- started.
Repeated play pushed it over the line, smoothing over the rough spots,
easing me down during the lulls, certain that something exciting is
just around the corner.
- Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Somewhere
(2009 , ECM): He's 68 now, and his label keeps shipping out new
product every year, but since he turned 65 or so the recording dates
have started to creep back -- the new product more likely to come out
of old tapes than new. Critics tend to fall into two camps: some savor
every scrap served up, and some have started to wonder whether we have
enough of the more/less same thing by now. His "standards trio" with
Peacock and DeJohnette dates back to 1983, a couple dozen albums by
now, and for someone who isn't a piano fanatic, they do tend to all
blur together: impressive, admirable even, but how much do you need?
Still, every once in a while they make you pause and appreciate just
how extraordinary this group is. Last time for me was My Foolish
Heart: Live at Montreux, a 2001 tape released as a double in 2007,
but this is another one on that special level, recorded live at KKL
Luzern Concert Hall in 2009.
- Diego Barber/Hugo Cipres: 411 (2013, Origin):
Barber is a guitarist from Spain, has a couple previous albums,
none like this, which is elegant jazztronica driven off Cipres'
"desktop" synths. Seamus Blake plays tenor sax (and EWI) for
extra lift, Johannes Weidenmueller fattens the bottom, and Ari
Hoenig adds some conventional drums.
- Eric Revis: City of Asylum (2012 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, best known as part of Branford Marsalis Quartet since 1997;
side credits have mostly been mainstream, but his own albums -- this
makes four since 2004 -- have been more avant. This is a piano trio
with Kris Davis and Andrew Cyrille. Mostly joint credits, with covers
from Monk and Jarrett, and one Revis original. The piano is feisty,
slippery, edgy, and the bass is prominent.
- Lotte Anker/Rodrigo Pinheiro/Hernani Faustino: Birthmark
(2012 , Clean Feed): Danish saxophonist, b. 1958, plays soprano,
alto, and tenor here. Has close to a dozen albums since 1997; someone
I should look into -- Stef Gijssels had her Live at the Loft as
his top album of 2009 -- but this is my first encounter. Pinheiro and
Faustino play piano and bass in RED Trio, whose original eponymous 2010
album I can recommend highly. This is softly toned and abstract, the
lack of a drummer making it seem like nothing much is happening, but
it sneaks up on you, demanding and rewarding your attention.
- Roger Davidson: Journey to Rio (2011 ,
Soundbrush, 2CD): Pianist, American but b. 1952 in Paris, France;
has 18 albums since 2000, mostly Brazilian themed although a couple
take on other Latin idioms. This was recorded in Rio de Janeiro on
his first visit to the country, with Pablo Aslan producing and a
raft of Brazilian studio musicians. Marceo Martins offers a few
fine sax solos and a lot of flute, which flutters delicately over
the piano rhythm -- which no matter the accompaniment is central.
- Harris Eisenstadt September Trio: The Destructive Element
(2012 , Clean Feed): Drummer, b. 1975 in Toronto, father was also
a drummer; has been prolific since 2002 -- AMG lists 14 records, one
(looks like) a dupe, but hasn't logged this one yet. One of the best of
those was his 2011 September Trio with Ellery Eskelin on tenor
sax and Angelica Sanchez on piano. Same group here: Eskelin is superb
at stepping around the rhythms, while the pianist burns right through
them, adding more along the way.
- Lama + Chris Speed: Lamaçal (2012 , Clean Feed):
Live at Portalegre Jazz Fest, they say "10o edition" but
mean 2012. Speed, who should need no intro, plays tenor sax and clarinet.
Lama is a trumpet trio led by Susana Santos Silva, with Gonçalo Almeida
on bass and Greg Smith on drums, both also dabbling in electronics, and
this is their second album. A little slow on the start, but when the
horns get working they bounce off one another splendidly.
- Made to Break: Provoke (2011 , Clean Feed):
Ken Vandermark group, with V5 drummer Tim Daisy, Devin Hoff on
electric bass, and Christof Lurzmann on "lloopp" -- a free software
package for live-improvising on a computer. Three longish (19, 20,
24 minutes) Vandermark pieces, dedications to John Cage, Buckminster
Fuller, and Marshall McLuhan. The electronics have some difficulty
gaining traction, and never amount to more than background, so this
reduces to Vandermark's performance: a little screechy on clarinet,
but a powerhouse on tenor sax. Group also has a new LP (vinyl only)
called Lacerba, which I didn't get.
- Zs: Grain (2013, Northern Spy): Avant-noise group,
originally a trio with saxophonist Sam Hillmer, after a handful of
releases (including a 4-CD box as a sextet), now a trio again, with
Patrick Higgins (guitar) and Greg Fox (percussion) -- pulled those
credits off the website, since the album doesn't say really much of
anything. Actually, nearly all of this sounds electronic, and the
two parts sound like dozens of pieces -- lots of interesting effects
that don't get stuck long enough to become annoying, but that don't
quite flow either.
- Vandeweyer/Van Hove/Lovens/Blume: Quat: Live at Hasselt
(2011 , No Business): Cover lists last
names only, and label lists this record as by Quat Quartet, although
only "QUAT" ever appears on the package. I added the first names to
avoid duplicating the last names here. Credits, respectively, are:
vibes, piano, percussion, and percussion. I'd say that makes this
the pianist's album, even though the four pieces are joint improvs.
Van Hove is an important avant-pianist, his first record dating from
1969 (Requiem for Che Guevara/Psalmus Spei), thirty-some since.
Lovens, 12 years younger, has had a comparable career, just shorter
(since 1975). Blume is a few years younger, and on a lot fewer albums,
and this appears to be the first for Vandemeyer. So much percussion
creates a prickly chaotic storm, a whorl of noise that the piano
trumps -- most impressive when it's all clashing, less so when Van
Hove lays out, or picks up his accordion.
- Melodic Art-Tet (1974 , No Business): Quartet,
originally formed in 1970 by saxophonist Charles Brackeen and three
members of Sun Ra's entourage: Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet), Ronnie Boykins
(bass), and Roger Blank (drums). They played in lofts, never released
an album, but cut this at WKCR in 1974, with a very young William
Parker taking over the bass slot, and Tony Waters on percussion.
Four pieces (17, 20, 30, 12 minutes), free with funk overtones, the
reeds -- flute and soprano as well as tenor sax -- not as clear as
you'd like, but Abdullah turns into a force of nature, and the
second half is so ship-shape you could sail to Saturn.
- Sophie Agnel/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Meteo (2012
, Clean Feed): Pianist, b. 1964 in Paris; tenth album since
2000, a trio with Edwards on bass and Noble on drums. Free, the piano
often lurking as bass and drums set up a forest of uncertainty, but
very impressive when it all comes crashing together.
- Olivia Foschi: Perennial Dreamer (2012 ,
self-released): Singer, b. near San Francisco, grew up and studied
there and in Italy, eventually landing in New York. First album,
produced by drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., with Miki Hiyama (piano),
David Rosenthal (guitar), Michael Olatuja (bass), and guest spots
(notably Gegoire Maret and Stacy Dillard). About half originals,
half covers -- the latter stand out, especially "Everything Happens
- Kenny Barron: Kenny Barron & the Brazilian Knights
(2012 , Sunnyside): Pianist, huge pile of records since 1968,
also one of the most important jazz educators of our era; not known
for Latin jazz but an early (1974) triumph was called Peruvian
Blue and he must have picked up some Brazilian tunes during his
long tenure as pianist for Stan Getz. His Knights are Sergio Barroso
(bass) and Rafael Barata (drums), with Lula Galvao (guitar), Mauricio
Einhorn (harmonica), and Idriss Boudrioua (alto sax) added on most
tracks, and Claudio Roditi (flugelhorn and muted trumpet) on one.
Features songs by the late Johnny Alf, three by Einhorn, one Barron
original, and a Jobim that is anything but obligatory.
- Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Live at Maya Recordings
Festival (2011 , No Business): I can hardly guess how
many records this trio has together: 10? 20? More? The earliest trio
I see is 1986, but all three played in bassist Guy's London Jazz
Composers Orchestra on Ode in 1972. Drummer Lytton appeared
on a duo with Parker in 1972. And they were in a quartet with George
Lewis in 1983. AMG credits Lytton with appearing on 26 Parker albums,
and Guy on 25. So, probably close to a dozen, certainly if you count
the quartets. I'm not sure how this ranks, but the basics are very
solid. Parker's soprano sax is unique, especially with the circular
breathing, while his tenor is rougher and more personable.
- The Convergence Quartet: Slow and Steady (2011
, No Business): Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Alexander Hawkins
(piano), Dominic Lash (bass), Harris Eisenstadt (drums). Third
album together. All four compose, with Lash -- the least famous
to me, but Discogs credits him with 10 albums since 2006 --
getting the upper hand this time. Not all that slow or steady,
interesting leads from Bynum and Hawkins, lots of flurry from
- Correction With Mats Gustafsson: Shift (2012 ,
No Business): Correction is Sebastian Bergström's piano trio -- their
2010 album Two Nights in April (Ayler) was a high B+ here --
with Joacim Nyberg on bass and Emil Åstrand-Melin on drums. Gustafsson
plays baritone sax here, and for once brought his inside game, playing
around the shifts rather than bulling through them. It's an appealing
strategy, one that gives the pianist more to do, and he rises to the
occasion. [Vinyl only.]
- Bob Mover: My Heart Tells Me (2010-11 ,
Motema, 2CD): Saxophonist, b. 1952, plays more alto than tenor,
only has about nine albums, mostly 1977-88, then 1997, 2008,
and this magnum opus. Mainstream player (when he doesn't kick
it into bop overdrive), also sings, a frail
crooner, possibly influenced by Chet Baker but I suspect such
cases just find their vulnerability and pick it like a scab,
sometimes turning it into something affecting. First disc here
is all standards, mostly vocals, a quartet with Kenny Barron,
Bob Cranshaw, and Steve Williams. Second disc has only one
vocal, mostly originals with some swing, adds Josh Evans on
trumpet, sometimes Steve Hall on tenor sax, and occasionally
swaps in Victor Lewis on drums. Nice to have either option.
- The Aperturistic Trio: Truth and Actuality (2013,
Inner Circle Music): Piano trio: James Weidman, Harvie S (bass),
Steve Williams (drums). Weidman has three albums under his own
name, plus a lot of notable side credits: M-Base/Steve Coleman,
Abbey Lincoln, Cassandra Wilson, Kevin Mahogany, Joe Lovano --
more singers, especially. Williams is hard to look up -- Discogs
lists 20 with that name, and I only found him on AMG through a
back door: no name albums, a few dozen side credits since 1984,
notably Miles Davis and Shirley Horn. Didn't bother looking up
S, since he regularly berates me (and probably everyone else)
for misspelling his name. Bassist, has a long career mostly under
his eminently misspellable original name. I associate him with
Sheila Jordan, but lately he's tried to remodel himself as a
Latin jazz guy. In other words, three underrated veterans used
to lurking in the background behind fabulous singers, adopting
yet another alias to protect their obscurity. Inside stuff, easy
to miss. But if you miss Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones, maybe
- June Tabor/Iain Ballamy/Huw Warren: Quercus (2006
, ECM): English folk singer, has a couple dozen albums since
1976, including Silly Sisters with Maddy Prior and several
with Oysterband. This is very stripped down with pianist Warren
backing and saxophonist Ballamy interpolating, a combo which sets
her voice off nicely -- although I'm still a bigger fan of the
- David's Angels: What It Seems (2012 ,
Kopasetic): Singer-songwriter Sofie Norling, b. 1984 in Sweden,
based in Stockholm, backed with keybs (Maggi Olin), electric bass
(producer David Carlsson), and drums (Michala Østergaard-Nielsen).
Second group album. Doesn't fit any category: art song tempos but
not the archness, singer has jazz inflections, instrumental bits
lean toward experimental rock (more the bass than the jazz drums),
Olin's Rhodes is sharper than her piano precisely because of the
pencil-thin tone. Group name seems malapropos even if Carlsson
is pulling the strings.
- Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series
Vol. 2 (1969 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD):
- John O'Gallagher: The Anton Webern Project (2012
, Whirlwind): Alto saxophonist, ninth album since 2002 plus
a long list of side credits where he's often the real star. This
is based on eight opuses by Austrian 12-tone composer Anton Webern,
refashioned for a superb jazz group with Matt Moran (vibes), Pete
McCann (guitar), Russ Lossing (keybs), Johannes Weidenmuller (bass),
Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and Margaret Grebowicz (voice). I listened
to Webern some during my Adorno phase: found him the most tolerable
of the 12-toners, possibly because his odd pieces were so short
and oblique, but this builds outward, and aside from the occasional
vocals I'd never suspect this to come out of central Europe. Fine
ensemble work and solos, especially McCann and O'Gallagher.
- The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2
(2013, Driff): Sextet, an interesting Dutch-Chicago-Boston hybrid:
Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano),
Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Nate McBride
(bass), Han Bennink (drums). Eleven songs by Steve Lacy, plus one
by Monk. First volume was terrific, and the new one, a new session
(not leftovers from the first), carries on.
- Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Cocoon (2012 ,
Driff): Pianist, b. in Greece, moved to Boston to study at New
England Conservatory in the 1980s and stuck around, with a dozen
or more records since 1994 -- his 2007 album as Mi3, Free
Advice, was a pick hit here. This is a piano trio with Jef
Charland on bass and Luther Gray on drums, not as difficult or
explosive as the pianist gets, but vigorous and inventive by
- Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Circuitous (2012
, Driff): Recorded in Chicago, with bassist Nate McBride
the link between the Boston-based pianist and the Chicago-based
all-star band: Dave Rempis and Keefe Jackson (saxes/clarinets),
and Frank Rosaly (drums). Sounds great one moment, questionable
the next, in an oscillation that's almost an aesthetic.
- Billy Bang: Da Bang! (2011 , TUM): Probably the
late, great violinist's last recording -- in Helsinki, about two months
before he died. Quintet, with trombone (Dick Griffin), piano (Andrew
Bemkey), bass (Hilliard Greene), and drums (Newman Taylor-Baker). Six
cuts -- one original, the title cut by Barry Altschul, other pieces
from Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins. Far
from his greatest work, but his solos are unmistakable, and trombone
is a nice contrast. Plus you can't go out on a more ecstatic note than
- Chris Morrissey: North Hero (2013, Sunnyside):
Electric bassist (should try to remember that come Downbeat
poll time), second album, quartet: Mike Lewis (sax), Aaron Parks
(piano), Mark Guiliana (drums). Lewis plays in a Minneapolis band
called Happy Apple with Dave King, who produces here. Guiliana is
a fair soundalike for King, Parks is a striking pianist in his
own right, and Lewis is a double threat: a honker on the faster
ones and a swooner on the ballads. Morrissey wrote both.
- Ethan Iverson/Lee Konitz/Larry Grenadier/Jorge Rossy: Costumes
Are Mandatory (2012 , High Note): Piano, alto sax,
bass, drums -- you should recognize all the names. Konitz is 85,
has had a brilliant career; he doesn't break any new ground here,
but is a joy to hear. Iverson, best known for the Bad Plus, has a
few tricks up his sleeve. He does an interesting deconstruction of
"Blueberry Hill" that breaks with the song in many ways yet remains
instantly recognizable. That's in the middle of a record with two
takes of Iverson's "Blueberry Ice Cream" on the ends.
- Kikoski Carpenter Novak Sheppard: From the Hip
(2006 , BFM Jazz): David Kikoski (piano), Dave Carpenter
(bass), Gary Novak (drums), Bob Sheppard (saxes, mostly tenor).
The pianist, b. 1961, has at least 17 albums since 1989, notably
with Dutch mainstream label Criss Cross, but this is the first
I've heard. Sheppard only has four albums (since 1991), but has
a long side-credit list -- AMG's credits list runs 222 lines,
lots of singers (including Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt) --
another mainstream player, always a plus.
- Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri: Transylvanian Concert
(2011 , ECM): Piano and viola, the concert recorded in Romania,
near Ban's birthplace. He studied at Bucharest Music Academy, moved
to New York in 1999, has a handful of records since 2002. Maneri
was also b. 1969, but in New York, the son of microtonal clarinetist
Joseph Maneri, and has more than 15 albums since 1995.
- Michigan State University Professors of Jazz: Better Than
Alright (2012 , self-released, 2CD): I've run across
several names here -- Etienne Charles (trumpet), Michael Dease
(trombone), Rodney Whitaker (bass) -- but don't recall others --
Diego Rivera (sax), Reginald Thomas (piano), Perry Hughes (guitar),
Randy Gelispie (drums). Compositions are split between Charles (4),
Rivera (3), Whitaker (3), Thomas (2), plus one by "guest" Mardra
Thomas (who sings two blues), and one cover. Hot solos, cohesive
swing, really impeccable hard bop.
- David Murray Infinity Quartet: Be My Monster Love
(2012 , Motéma): Paul Krugman likes to refer to Joseph Stiglitz
as "an insanely great economist"; Murray, for much the same reason,
is an insanely great tenor saxophonist: his solos here are monumental,
taking off in flights of fancy that no one else can think of much less
do. Unfortunately, he decided to do songs here, or more precisely, of
texts improvised into something song-like. Three of the texts come
from Ishmael Reed, whose own deadpan authority made them work on
Conjure. Here, Macy Gray sings the title piece in her own
idiosyncratic mien, and Gregory Porter tries to croon the others,
plus a bit by Abiodun Oyewode on the importance of children. The
texts mean well, but the hymn about "making a joyful noise" is
doubly ironic: if only Porter would shut up and let the sax man
- Reg Schwager: Duets (2002 , Jazz From Rant):
Guitarist, b. 1962, based in Toronto, had a 1985 album and since
2002 another handful. I wrote about his Trio Improvisations
(with Michel Lambert) released this year and the label (or maybe
the artist) sent me three older releases. These are all duets with
bassists -- Don Thompson, Neil Swainson, Dave Young, Pat Collins.
The bassists bring one or two songs each, there's a patch of
original credits, and three standards. There's a sweet-toned
delicacy to the guitar, and the bassists add depth and resonance.
- Art Hodes: I Remember Bessie (1976 , Delmark):
Pianist, b. 1904 in Russia, not sure when he moved to Chicago but he
didn't start recording until he moved to New York in 1938. Smith died
in 1937, so they could have crossed paths in Chicago, but most likely
he remembered her from records. Solo piano, old blues with some swing
to them, the style Hodes grew up on and was exceptional at.
- Daniel Rosenboom: Daniel Rosenboom's Book of Omens
(2012 , Nine Winds): Trumpet player, b. 1982, fifth album
not counting a couple of "jazz-rock" groups he's been in (Plotz!,
Dr. Mint), or side credits like the Industrial Jazz Group. Quintet
with Vinny Golia (contra-alto clarinet, alto flute, tenor sax),
guitar (Jake Vossier), bass (Tim Lefebvre), drums (Matt Mayhall).
Golia is key, making a lot of noise for the trumpet to slice up.
- Ketil Bjørnstad: La Notte (2010 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1952 in Norway, has close to 40 albums since 1989,
11 on ECM. This one is built around a core of strings -- Arild
Andersen's double bass, Anja Lechner's cello, and Eivind Aarset's
guitar -- a combo where the volume centers in the cello range
and the variation is broader than you'd get with a violin. The
piano dices with the strings, Marilyn Mazur adds percussion,
and Andy Sheppard adds some nice colorings on tenor and soprano
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke
(2012 , Spartacus): The names here, featured on the front cover, are
tenor saxophonist extraordinaire Tommy Smith and pianist Brian Kellock --
their 2005 duet album, Symbiosis, remains one of my favorites. The
big band is Smith's pet project. They've released a bracing version of
Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2009) and now this romp through
Ellington's songbook, starting with "Black and Tan Fantasy" with three
Ellington or Strayhorn arrangements of Edvard Grieg. Studious at first,
they eventually loosen up, especially when they hit "Rockin' in Rhythm"
and Smith doing the "wailing interval" between "Dimuendo in Blue" and
"Crescendo in Blue."
- Randy Brecker: Night in Calisia (2011 ,
Summit): Title sometimes reported as Randy Brecker Plays Wlodek
Pawlik's Night in Calisia. Second time the trumpeter has
collaborated with the Polish composer-pianist, following 2009's
Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite, and I'm pretty
sure they're the two best records of his career. Trumpet on top
of Pawlik's piano trio backed by Kalisz Philharmonic, as swishy
as they get, although the score stretches them, and someone
(drummer Cezary Konrad?) minds the rhythm.
- Matt Parker: Worlds Put Together (2012 , Bynk):
Tenor saxophonist, originally from Fort Lauderdale, came up through
the Maynard Ferguson band (c. 2006), based in New York, first album.
Basic band includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and Julio Monterrey
on alto sax, although he strips down on a couple not-quite-solo cuts
and adds a party-load of vocals on another. All interesting, whether
he's cooing a ballad or smashing up the joint.
- Lucian Ban: Elevation/Mystery (2010 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1969 in Romania, based in New York. Seventh or so album
since 2002, most with baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, and second
one this year, following Transylvanian Concert with Mat Maneri
on ECM. That stretched out his folkloric/classical side, but this one --
a quartet with Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Hébert (bass), and Eric
McPherson (drums) -- recorded live at Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC sets
him in an avant context, especially when the saxophonist works up a
full head of steam. Nor is a quiet spot with just the bassist any less
interesting. By the way, the "Mystery" part of the title is obscured --
how clever some graphic designers are! I missed it on unpacking, and
most likely others will too.
- Albert Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street: Tootie's Tempo
(2013, Sunnyside): Heath, b. 1935, nicknamed "Tootie," was one of
the three Heath Brothers, along with saxophonist Jimmy Heath and
bassist Percy Heath. Only two or three albums under his name, but
he's played on at least a hundred starting in 1957 with Red Garland
and John Coltrane, and this is the second album he's appeared on
named Tootie's Tempo -- the other by Tete Montoliu Trio in
1979. Iverson, who's recently eschewed credit in the Billy Hart
Quartet, plays piano, and Street bass. Starts out jaunty with "The
Charleston," part of a songbook that sometiems predates the drummer,
and ends with the title song, mostly drum solo. Nice tribute. (By
the way, the only album Percy Heath put his name on came out in
2004, a year before his death. It was called A Love Song,
and was even more charming than this one.)
- Mort Weiss: A Giant Step Out and Back (2013, SMS Jazz):
Seventy-eight-year-old clarinet player, started late, says this will be
his last album, evidently blaming the economy more than his age. Solo
with what I assume are some overdubs, a few originals and a bunch of
standards which he uses for the basis of free improvs -- a surprise in
that he's always been a swing-to-bop man -- but his command of the
clarinet doesn't leave you feeling the need for anything else. Some
vocal something-or-other toward the end -- he referred to something
like that elsewhere as a "brain fart," and that's as good a term as
- Jimmy Amadie Trio: Live! At the Philadelphia Museum of
Art (2011 , TP): Pianist, based in Philadelphia,
has eight albums since 1997. No idea how old he is, although he
claims to have played with Charley Ventura, Coleman Hawkins,
Woody Herman, and Mel Tormé (and he does have a Tormé tribute
album). AMG describes him as "a hot jazz pianist in the 1950s"
but doesn't list any credits before 1997. This is a trio, with
Tony Marino on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums. All standards,
most you've heard a million times -- "Summertime," "My Funny
Valentine," "Just in Time," "All the Things You Are" -- and
he takes a mainstream tack, and he really makes them sparkle.
- Steve Turre: The Bones of Art (2013, High Note):
Trombone player, poll winner most years, treats his colleagues with
a set of songs each featuring three trombones -- usually Frank Lacy
and Steve Davis, but Robin Eubanks takes the slot on two cuts, one
from each. Also with Xavier Davis (piano), Peter Washington (bass),
and Willie Jones III (drums), plus bongos and congas on the memorable
- Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (2013, Mack Avenue):
Bassist, fifteen albums since 1994, leads a piano trio here with
Christian Sands -- two previous albums -- on piano and Ulysses Owens,
Jr. on drums -- one previous album, Unanimous on Criss Cross,
a quintet with Sands, McBride, and a couple horns. So, young guys
with similar tastes and ambitions to the leader two decades ago.
Two originals (one shared with Sands), seven covers: standards,
piano jazz fare (Billy Taylor, Oscar Peterson), a dab of funk to
close ("Who's Making Love"), the centerpiece a long meditation on
"My Favorite Things." Leader earns his bass solos.
- Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio: Blessed (2011 ,
Origin): Drummer, from Bartlesville, OK, based in New York. second
album, a couple dozen side credits since 1996, all over the map --
including saxophonist Michael Blake's post-Loung Lizards debut in
1997. Blake is back here, along with bassist Mark Helias, playing
eight Neumann originals, one from Helias, and one from Roswell
Rudd ("Keep Your Heart Right"). All three are terrific, with Blake
in an expansive R&B honking mode, the rhythm section pushing
him on and running interference.
- Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments (2013, Clean Feed):
Bassist, b. 1952, a major one although I've often had trouble getting
the hand of what he's up to, especially on his own albums. Quintet
includes Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax), Michael Dessen (trombone),
Denman Maroney (hyperpiano), and either Tom Rainey or Michael Sarin
on drums -- more options than he normally employs as he develops a
complex mystery, with occasional touches of tango.
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Red Hot (2012
, Hot Cup): Moppa Elliott's Pennsylvania hick group takes its
terror act to Dixieland, expanding from a quartet to septet along
the way -- additions are at piano (Ron Stabinsky), bass trombone
(David Taylor), banjo (Brandon Seabrook), while Jon Irabagon picks
up the C melody sax, soprano too. The harmony is reminiscent of old
times, but the group knows too many new tricks to go authentic --
free rhythm, abstract piano solos, some electronic drone. As usual,
they're just out to mess with you.
- Dave Damiani: Watch What Happens (2013, Hard Knocks):
Singer, based in Los Angeles, has a previous album. Wrote one song here,
the rest songbook standards althogh he's picked up a couple rock-era
pop tunes and fit them in -- "Happy Together," "Raspberry Beret."
Mostly backed by No Vacancy Orchestra, a conventional big band, with
5 (of 13) cuts backed by the smaller Jazzadelics -- roughly the same
rhythm section plus Ricky Woodard on tenor sax. So he comes off as a
slightly updated '50s crooner, nothing drippy or weepy or overly
melodramatic, and I'm always a sucker for songs like "On the Street
Where You Live" and "Old Devil Moon."
- Avishai Cohen With Nitai Hershkovits: Duende (2012
, Sunnyside): Bassist, from Israel, thirteen records since
1998, wrote six (of ten) pieces here, with covers from Coltrane,
Monk, Cole Porter, and Nachum Hayman (the front half of a medley).
Hershkovits is a pianist, also from Israel, first record here,
just duets with the bassist. Nice touch, subtle flow.
- Oliver Jones: Just for My Lady (2012 , Justin Time):
Pianist, b. 1934 in Montreal, studied briefly with Oscar Peterson's sister
but didn't start recording until 1984, now up around 22 albums. The lady
on the cover is violinist Josée Aidans, and they're backed with bass (Éric
Lagacé) and drums (Jim Doxas), mostly Jones originals but the Gershwin
tune at the end, "Lady Be Good," is the one that sticks in your mind.
- Imer Santiago: Hidden Journey (2013, Jazz Music City):
Trumpet player, originally from Lorain, Ohio; studied at Ohio State
under Pharez Whitted, then University of New Orleans; currently based
in Nashville, teaching at Tennessee State, also band director at Moses
McKissack Middle School and "worship pastor" of The Church at Antioch.
First album, quintet plus guests, saxophonist Rahsaan Barber co-wrote
three songs. Has a serene tone, does a nice job of pacing this. Two
songs are dedicated to Miles Davis and Tito Puente. Stephanie Adlington
sings "The Very Thought of You."
- Linda Oh: Sun Pictures (2012 , Greenleaf Music):
Bassist, third album, quartet with Ben Wendel (credited with trumpet
but sounds like tenor sax, his usual instrument), James Muller (guitar),
and Ted Poor (drums). Pieces have an inside-out feel to them, nothing
showy, fast or loud -- the guitar and sax just build up on the bass
waves and carry you along.
- The Candy Shop Boys: Sugar Foot Stomp (2013, self-released):
Throwback side project for saxophonist Matt Parker, who has a recent
postbop album I like a lot (Worlds Put Together). With Scott
Tixier (violin), Jesse Elder (piano), bass and drums, and Sophia Urista
singing 7 of 12 songs -- Cab Calloway ("Kicking the Gong Around"),
Harlem Hamfats ("The Candy Man"), "St. James Infirmary," but "Light
My Fire" seems a misstep, and "I Want to Be Evil" is less convincing
than "When I Get Low I Get High." Instrumentals like "Sugarfot Stomp"
and "Black & Tan Fantasy" and "Bernie's Tune" are more than filler.
- Kaze: Tornado (2012 , Libra): Quartet with
two trumpets (Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost), piano (Satoko
Fujii), and drums (Peter Orins). The trumpets burst out of the gate,
and the pianist almost makes the drummer an afterthought. And when
the fury breaks, they keep it interesting in subtler ways.
- Satoko Fujii: Gen Himmel (2012 , Libra):
Solo piano, not sure how many of those she's recorded in a very
prolific career -- AMG lists 44 records since 1995 -- but it's
not zero and not many. This has none of the thrash I'm so fond
of, so it's all the more surprising that this succeeds on its
own complex melodic terms.
- Waclaw Zimpel Quartet: Stone Fog (2012 ,
Fortune): Clarinet player, from Poland, leading a quartet with
Krzysztof Dys on piano, Christian Ramond on bass, and Klaus Kugel
on drums. Zimpel has a handful of previous albums, including two
as Undivided (with pianist Bobby Few), plus he has been involved
in a couple of Ken Vandermark projects (ones I haven't heard).
He is very striking here, the album held back only by a few long
atmospheric stretches, fog perhaps.
- Ken Peplowski: Maybe September (2012 , Capri):
Plays clarinet and tenor sax, has close to forty albums since 1987,
several with Benny Goodman in the title, others with Ellington or
Strayhorn, a mild-mannered retro-swing guy who rarely exceeds
expectations, but I wound up playing this repeatedly during an
afternoon of cooking and never felt the need for anything else.
Basic quartet with Ted Rosenthal on piano; one original, standards
by Berlin and Warren; nods to Ellington, Poulenc, and Artie Shaw;
a Lennon-McCartney I can live with, a "Caroline, No" I relish.
- RJ Miller: Ronald's Rhythm (2013, Loyal Label):
Drummer, also plays keyboards and analog synths here, based in
Brooklyn, first album; backed by bass, additional keyb or analog
synthesizer on most tracks, accordion (Leo Genovese) on one. The
analog synths, in particular, give this the feel of vintage
- The Miami Saxophone Quartet: Four of a Kind (2012
, Fortitude): Gary Keller on soprano, Gary Lindsay on alto,
Ed Calle on tenor, Mike Brignola on baritone -- cover type changes to
red for him (the name, well aside from Calle, I thought I recognized;
turned out to be confusion with the late, unrelated baritonist Nick
Brignola). De facto leader is Lindsay, who wrote most of the pieces
and arranged the rest (sharing blame with Calle for "Twinkle Twinkle
Little Star"). Usual problem with sax quartets is the lack of rhythm
to push things along and harmonic limits of four instruments that
can only produce one note each at a time, but these guys solve those
problems the old-fashioned way, by cheating -- adding a piano trio,
Svet Stoyanov on mallets, and for good measure Brian Lynch on trumpet.
Together they generate big band swing, and the live audience approves.
- Erik Friedlander: Claws and Wings (2013, Skipstone):
Cellist, composed this in the months after his wife of 22 years died,
at once somber, affectionate, and lovely. With Sylvie Courvoisier
on piano and Ikue Mori on laptop.
- The Road to Jajouka: A Benefit Album (2013, Howe):
Known nowadays as the Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar,
the Moroccan institution first came to worldwide attention when Brian
Jones (Rolling Stones, you might recall) released a 1968 album of
theirs called The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka. Attar would have
been four at the time, the son of then-leader Hadj Abdesalam Attar.
They have scattered albums of their own -- AMG lists eight starting
with the Jones affair (which, by the way, was certainly the first
album from Africa or the Middle East I ever heard) -- but this one
they owe to western intermediaries: above all, Billy Martin (of
Medeski & Wood fame), whose illybeats lay the techno-fusion
foundation for a parade of guests, including Marc Ribot, DJ Logic,
Lee Ranaldo, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Ornette Coleman.
- Chicago Jazz Orchestra: Burstin' Out! (2012
, Origin): Originally founded in 1978, currently directed
by Jeff Lindberg, don't have a good sense of their recording
history (only album in their web store is this one). Also don't
recognize hardy any of the big band musicians, let alone the
phalanx of strings that become noticeable whenever this hits
a dull patch. However, that rarely happens: the standards
repertoire is stellar, and "guest vocalist" Cyrille Aimée is
a real sparkplug -- best big band singer I've heard in years.
- Brussels Jazz Orchestra/Joe Lovano: Wild Beauty
(2012 , Half Note): Lovano is listed on cover and spine as
"featuring" but he's more than just the guest draw here; he's the
main point. Title could be, or subtitle probably is -- parsing
album covers is such a wretched business -- Sonata Suite for
the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, but I'll stick to the big type.
The other name phrase on the cover is "arranged by Gil Goldstein."
The compositions belong to Lovano, so it would make most sense
to credit the whole thing to Lovano and combine title: subtitle.
The big band -- no strings here other than guitar and bass --
has a huge sound and gallops hard, its occasional lurches and
lapses annoying, but the leader towers above it all, a talent
that goes back to his days with Woody Herman.
- James Zollar: It's All Good People (2012 , JZAZ):
Trumpet player, originally from Kansas City, only three albums under
his own name since 1997 (the excellent Soaring With Bird), but
his side credits include David Murray, Billy Bang, Sam Rivers, Don
Byron, Bob Stewart, and quite a bit with Marty Ehrlich. Surprisingly
goes for down home funk grooves here, with a bit of rap, vocals by
Sheryl Rene and Erika Matsuo, a bit of Gregoire Maret harmonica,
and a closer looking back at his elders, called "For Cootie &
Clark." I'd be tempted to say he's wasting his talent here, but the
trumpet is stellar, and I can't begrudge a guy for having a good
- Pete McGuinness: Voice Like a Horn (2013, Summit):
Vocalist, started out playing trombone which he still does here.
Has a couple previous albums, one with a quintet, one with a big
band, is co-lead with the New York Trombone Conspiracy; side credits
include a lot more big band work. Backed here by Ted Kooshian's
piano trio, plus "special guest" slots for Jon Gordon (alto sax)
and Bill Mobley (trumpet), two cuts each. Songbook standards plus
"Birks' Works" -- an occasion to let the scat fly. But his voice
isn't really "like a horn" -- nothing wrong with his scat runs,
but he has a firm grip on the text and the language, something
vocalists who aspire to mimic horns often lose.
- M1, Brian Jackson & the New Midnight Band: Evolutionary
Minded (2013, Motema): The late Gil Scott-Heron's one-time
partner raises the banner again, recycling a list of songs for the
revolution still to come, with help from various MCs -- M1 up front,
Chuck D, Stic Man, Killah Priest, and Wise Intelligent get "feat."
slots, as well as singers named Martin Luther and Gregory Porter,
and spoken words from gun rights advocate Bobby Seale.
B+(***) [September 10]
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Balazs Pandi: One (2013,
Rare Noise): Tenor sax trio, with Morris playing electric bass for
the first time on record -- he established himself on guitar, but
has also played acoustic bass more frequently of late -- and Pandi
on drums. Perelman's been knocking out a half-dozen records per year
recently, with two good ones already this year -- The Art of
the Duet, Volume One with Matthew Shipp, and Serendipity
with Shipp, William Parker, and Gerald Cleaver -- and this, with
its choppy intro and an inspired torrent near the end, is another
A- [advance: October 1]
- Matt Mitchell: Fiction (2012 , Pi): Pianist,
based in Philadelphia, first album under own name after side credits
with Dave Douglas, Darius Jones, and Tim Berne. Duo, with Ches Smith
on percussion, including vibes. Very sharp, angular attack in free
time, sometimes out-percussing the drummer, although the pianist
can't quite shake the beat, no matter how hard he tries to dodge it.
- Joey DeFrancesco: One for Rudy (2013, High Note):
Organ trio, with Steve Cotter on guitar and Ramon Banda on drums.
Rudy is Van Gelder, possibly the most famous jazz producer and
recording engineer of the last 50-60 years, and that concept sets
up a vintage songbook -- Davis/Powell, Rollins, Monk, Hubbard,
"Stardust," finished off with an original for the title track.
No pumping or grinding, just a pleasing light touch on everything.
- Claudia Quintet: September (2013, Cuneiform):
John Hollenbeck's soft-toned group -- Matt Moran's vibraphone is
more than ever the focal center, with accordion (Red Wienenge)
and clarinet/tenor sax (Chris Speed) for color, and bass to round
out the bottom. All pieces composed in various Septembers since
2001, a pivot point in Hollenbeck's career. One samples a speech --
sounds like Franklin Roosevelt, and is titled "1936 We Warn You,"
but I don't follow why he should be complaining about "the present
administration" which would have been his -- chopping it up and
replaying it for its musical tones. The rest are percussion jams,
as inspired as ever.
A- [September 24]
- Zansa: Djansa (2013, self-released): Afropop group
based in Asheville, North Carolina; led by Adama Dembele, who figures
himself a 33rd generation musician, tracing his ancestry back through
his native Cöte d'Ivoire. The rest of the band look like they crawled
out of the Appalachian hollers, with Matt Williams' fiddle especially
prominent. Ends with a striking fish-out-of-water story.
- Samo Salamon Quartets: Stretching Out (2008-12
, Samo, 2CD): Guitarist, b. 1978 in the future Slovenia, has spent some
time in New York but is still based in Slovenia; 13 records since 2003,
this one a double, one disc each with an American quartet in 2008 and
a European one in 2012. The latter, with Dominique Pifarely on violin,
Bruno Chevillon on bass, and Roberto Dani on drums, is dense, scratchy,
and ultimately rewarding although it took me a lot of time to pan out.
The former, with Donny McCaslin on tenor sax, John Hébert on bass, and
Gerald Cleaver on drums, is no trouble at all -- the guitarist brings
back his John Scofield roots, and McCaslin follows seamlessly, never
tripping himself up.
- Gavin Templeton: In Series (2013, Nine Winds): Alto
saxophonist, grew up in Reno, NV, where he studied and wound up backing
oldies acts like Wayne Newton and the Temptations; moved to Los Angeles
in 2006 and got a Master's at California Institute for the Arts. Second
album, side credits include Plotz!, Nels Cline, and Vinny Golia. This
is a postbop quintet, both guitar and piano as well as bass and drums --
no one I recognize but that's probably because I hear so little from
Golia. All Templeton originals. He can push the sax out front if need
be, or fill in making good use of guitar or piano leads.
- Howard Alden/Andy Brown Quartet: Heavy Artillery (2013,
Delmark): Two guitarists, retro-swing guys with special fondness
for George Van Eps, backed with bass and drums. Alden, based in New York,
is well established with close to 30 albums since 1985, most on Concord
or Arbors. Brown is much younger, based in Chicago, has an album under
his own name and a nice duo backing his wife, singer Petra van Nuis
(Far Away Places). Nothing heavy here, let alone artillery-like:
title song actually comes from Django Reinhardt, another shared hero.
- Jonathan Moritz Trio: Secret Tempo (2012 ,
Hot Cup): Tenor saxophonist (soprano too), b. 1977 in Tehran, Iran;
moved to Southern California quite young, then to Belgium to study,
then back for more study at California Institute for the Arts.
Website offers nine records for sale: this is the first under his
own name, but the others are mostly sax trios or quartets -- Trio
Caveat, The Up, Evil Eye; The E.R.A. is a larger group -- that I
would file under his name (at least once I recognized it). This
one has Shayna Dulberger on bass and Mike Pride on drums. First
impression was that this is the sort of sax record I fall easiest
for. After several replays the soprano had me wavering, but the
bassist sold the deal.
- Florian Hoefner Group: Falling Up (2013, OA2):
Pianist, from Germany but based in New York, second album (as far
as I can tell), reprising the group from his debut Songs Without
Words: Mike Ruby (tenor/soprano sax), Sam Anning (bass), Peter
Konreif (drums). Postbop with some edge and quick moves. All by
Hoefner except for "Eleanor Rigby" -- usually unjazzable but he
keeps it neatly cloaked until the punch line.
- Michael Moss/Billy Stein: Intervals (2013, 4th Stream):
Stein is a guitarist, based in New York; has a previous album that was
a high HM back in 2005 (Hybrids). Moss plays clarinet, sax, and
flute. He arrived in New York in the mid-1960s, played in a group called
Free Life Communication, later Free Energy and Four Rivers. He recorded
three albums 1978-80, then got a Ph.D. in psychology. Songs are credited
to either or both but feel improvised, surprising even if they wander a
bit. And for once I don't advise the saxophonist to tear the flute down
and shelve it, although I suspect Stein deserves as much credit there
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey/Gerald Cleaver:
Enigma (2013, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, two drummers --
the doubling up isn't conspicuous or necessary even to balance
out leaders who run on the loud side, but in an art where "the
drummer plays with the band" their separate takes add subtle
points -- not that you need them when the Brazilian saxophonist
is on such a roll.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Mat Maneri: A Violent Dose of
Anything (2013, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, viola. Brazil's
leading avant-saxophonist has been releasing six albums a year for
a good while now, most with Shipp (their relationship goes back
to 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz duet), so one can wonder
whether they wind up being too much of the same thing, or whether,
having graded A- no less than ten of his releases since 2000 (13
since 1989) I've lost my objectivity. Perelman's forte is the sax
trio: he's basically a free blower and nothing suits him more than
a strong rhythm section pushing him on -- Shipp has nearly that
same effect in a duo, even more so in a quartet. Perelman usually
has more trouble with strings, but those records are just easier
to dismiss. But this one is harder. Shipp and Maneri go back at
least to a 1998 duo (I don't particularly recommend). The viola
is particularly prickly here, often engaging like a second horn
although sketching out a more treacherous terrain, which Perelman
is eager to explore -- the first few minutes offer some of his
most flightful work ever. Title comes from a film for which this
is the soundtrack, but the seven pieces are long and coherent
with none of the pastiche or cliché that marr filmwork. Played
this more than the others and it's barely on the cusp, but in
some ways the handicaps make it all the more remarkable. Bump
those numbers up one more.
- Justin Morell Dectet: Subjects and Compliments
(2012 , Sonic Frenzy): Guitarist, studied at UCLA and got his
Ph.D. at University of Oregon; currently teaches in Atlanta. Don't
know how many records he has released -- a Quartet in 1999, The
Music of Steely Dan in 2002, several others possibly lapping
into classical music (at at least "smaller chamber works"). Dectet
has four reeds (including Bob Sheppard and Ben Wendel), three brass
(trumpeter John Daversa and two trombones), guitar, piano, bass, and
drums. Titles are like "Fugue in B-flat, in three voices" and "Fugue
in E, in four voices" -- but the voicings are often remarkable, and
the guitar adds some silk to the rhythmic flow.
B+(***) [October 29]
- 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.
- 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.
- Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Dream a Little Dream
(2012 , Whaling City Sound): Drummer, son of vibraphonist Terry
Gibbs, released an album called The Thrasher in 1996 and has
kept the handle through various group projects (Thrasher Band, ELectric
Thrasher Orchestra, etc.) His Dream Trio is Kenny Barron on piano and
Ron Carter on bass, and it's hard to quibble over that. Four Gibbs
originals, including dedications to McCoy Tyner and Don Pullen. One
song each from the others, and a long list of covers including one
Monk, two Hancocks, and a bit of Stevie Wonder.
B+(***) [October 29]
- 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.
- 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 rollicking blues from
- Myra Melford: Life Carries Me This Way (2013,
Firehouse 12): Pianist, very important, one I occasionally vote
for in Downbeat polls over dozens of worthy competitors;
AMG lists 16 albums since 1992, which for practical purposes is
short as she often turns a side credit into a tour de force.
But this is solo, so it only occasionally blows you away -- the
rest is first-rate dancing around the melody or sneaking up on
her next surprise.
- Tom Harrell: Colors of a Dream (2013, High Note):
Postbop trumpeter, b. 1946, has about 35 albums since 1978, has
impressive chops but in recent years I've had problems with his
compositions and combos. Not so here -- even though it doesn't
strike me as a good idea to have Esperanza Spalding sing and
(mostly) scat along with most of this, the rhythm section of
Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Jonathan Blake (drums) hurries her
along (looks like Spalding also plays bass on most of this),
and saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Wayne Escoffery give Harrell
quite a run -- best moments are the ones without Spalding,
but she actually does a marvelous job of filling in for the
B+(***) [October 22]
- Diane Hubka: West Coast Strings (2012 , SSJ):
Standards singer, has a half-dozen previous albums since 1998. The
strings here are guitarists, rotating with a couple cuts each (some
overlap, including Hubka playing guitar on three tracks: Anthony
Wilson, Ron Eschete, Mimi Fox, Larry Koonse, John Pisano, Peter
Sprague, and Barry Zweig. Starts with Wes Montgomery's "West Coast
Blues," with Wilson but it sets the tone for everyone who follows;
then "Moondance," a Jobim, one from Horace Silver, on to "It Ain't
Necessarily So" and "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and ending with
another blues. Voice is clear and fits the guitar especially well.
- Amir ElSaffar: Alchemy (2013, Pi): Trumpet player,
b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical music at DePaul
and still tends to orchestrate his albums -- this is the fourth
since 2007 -- as suites. Quintet with Ole Mathisen on tenor sax,
John Escreet on piano, François Moutin on bass, and Dan Weiss on
- Enrico Granafei: Alone and Together (2012 ,
CAP): Plays chromatic harmonica, DB guitar, and sings on two cuts --
very effectively, not that I follow. From Italy, studied classical
guitar at Conservatory of l'Aquila, later got a masters at Mahnattan
School of Music under Toots Thielemans; now owns a jazz club in
Montclair, NJ. With Amina Figarova on piano and Billy Hart on drums,
guest spots for Vitali Imereli on violin, Vic Juris and Dave Stryker
on guitar, Wallace Roney on trumpet. The harmonica is rich and
vibrant, Imereli's violin turns even "Yardbird Suite" into romantic
fare, and, as I said, the vocals are touching.
- Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Remembrance
(2004 , NoBusiness, 2CD): Alto saxophonist Dean died in 2006,
after a career that started up in the 1960s with the prog rock group
Soft Machine but moved ever further into avant-jazz. He plays on
three (of four) long cuts here, the first in a trio with Rogers on
bass and Bianco on drums; then in a quartet that adds Dunmall on
tenor sax; and finally a second trio. The sax here, and Dunmall only
adds to this, is relentlessly probing and engaging throughout. The
other track is a 28:29 duet with Rogers and Bianco, starting the
second disc off a bit obscurely but interesting in its own right.
- Scott Jeppesen: El Guapo (2013, Creative Bottle Music):
Saxophonist (credit plural plus bass clarinet, pictures show a tenor),
based in Los Angeles, first album, with Larry Koonse (guitar), Josh
Nelson (piano), bass, drums, and John Daversa (trumpet, flugelhorn)
on two tracks. Wrote 8 (of 10) tracks -- one cover from Richie Beirach,
the other a romp through "Don't Fence Me In." Has especially good feel
for ballad tempo.
- Ben Wanicur: The Excluded Middle (2012 ,
Middle Path): Bassist, based in San Diego, first album, with Ian
Tordella on sax, Peter Sprague on guitar, and Charlie Weller on
drums. Wanicur wrote five originals, added five covers including
two from Wayne Shorter. Mainstream postbop, nothing you haven't
heard before, but it's very nicely done. Tordella has a couple
recent albums I haven't heard. Sprague cut his first in 1979 and
has a lot of records I haven't heard, although I run into him
often enough to recognize the name.
- Dave Bennett: Don't Be That Way (2013, Mack Avenue):
Clarinet player, from Michigan, an unabashed Benny Goodman fan -- his
two previous albums are Dave Bennett Salutes 100 Years of Benny
and Clarinet Is King: Songs of Great Clarinetists. Mostly stays
with the classics here: "Slipped Disc," "Begin the Beguine," "Sing,
Sing, Sing," "Woodchopper's Ball," and reaches back even further for
"St. James Infirmary" (with a vocal) and the closing "When the Saints
Go Marching In." Even the one faux pas ("Yesterday," normally a kiss
of death) is flat out gorgeous. With Tad Weed on piano, and Reg
Schwager on guitar.
- Sérgio Galvão: Phantom Fish (2013, Pimenta):
Tenor/soprano saxophonist, b. 1965 in Brasilia, Brazil. Debut, piano
split between Leo Genovese and Aruán Ortiz, guitar between Leni Stern
and Alex Nolan. Upbeat, exhuberant even, reminds one of Gato Barbieri
long ago but less willing to rough it.
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood: Truth Teller (2013, Edgetone):
Avant-saxophonist (alto/soprano), from San Francisco, studied at UC Santa
Cruz in the late 1980s, drifted through various Bay Area groups (e.g.,
the Lords of Outland); at least eight albums since 1995. Mostly trio,
with bass (Kim Cass and/or Markus Hunt) and drums (Timothy Orr), plus
Rhodes on one cut. The rough stuff is sharp, engaging, and the softer
spots draw you in. Hadn't recognized him before: seems like a potential
- Idan Santhaus: There You Are (2008-11 ,
Posi-Tone): Big band arranger, born and raised in Israel, moved
to New York in 2001. First album under his own name, but has a
couple of arranger credits, including A Different Porgy &
Another Bess for Brussels Jazz Orchestra. His instrument is
flute, but he only plays on one cut here. Recorded in two sets
with a minority of overlapping musicians. The solos feel composed
through, but he has a remarkable knack of drawing them out.
- Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake: A Night in November: Live in New
Orleans (2011 , Valid): Louisiana boys, the saxophonist
(alto and tenor) a lifelong resident of the Big Easy, the drummer a
childhood emigré to Chicago where he was mentored by Fred Anderson,
eventually recording several duo albums together. Jordan is a fair
substitute, a little squeakier, and Drake is masterful, as always.
Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery
September 6, 1976 (1976 , Widow's Taste): Pepper got
out of jail in 1965 but played very little until 1975 when he kicked
off his final comeback with the brilliant album Living Legend.
Most of the previous seven Unreleased Art volumes focus on
live gigs from his last years, 1980-82, working with regular touring
bands. This catches him a few years earlier, at the Paul Masson Winery
in Saratoga with a no-name pickup band from the Bay Area. They aren't
bad -- pianist Smith Dobson acquits himself particularly well -- but
Pepper plays with exceptional verve, right out of the gate with a
fast "Caravan" up through the "Straight Life" encore. Most of these
songs are staples on his numerous live albums from the era, but he
rarely raced through this this fast and with this much vigor.
- John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell/Cecil McBee/Billy
Hart: Tribal Ghost (2007 , NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist,
b. 1936 in Copenhagen, Denmark; mother Danish, father Congolese; d. 2012.
This was recorded in 2007 at Birdland, Tchicai's trio with saxophonist
Kohlhase and guitarist Fewell rounded out with bass and drums. Four cuts,
one of those limited edition vinyl deals, no timings given but works out
to about 35 minutes. Fewell wrote three of the pieces, his guitar tying
them into neat little grooves, the saxes not clashing but embroidering.
- Randy Weston/Billy Harper: The Roots of the Blues
(2013, Sunnyside): Piano and tenor sax duets, with each taking one
solo turn. Pianist is 85, one of the few still working who started
in the 1950s. Mostly his songs (10-to-1 over Harper -- the covers
touchstones like "Body and Soul," "How High the Moon," "Take the A
Train"), and most with allusions to Africa, at least in the title --
no American pianist has searched deeper or longer into the mother
continent, going back as far as Weston's 1955 album African
Sunrise. Harper is pushing 70 himself, still possessing that
rich, gospel-infused tone.
B+(***) [November 19]
- Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth (2013,
Greene Avenue Music): Vocalist, originally from Trinidad or Tobago,
raised on Long Island, studied at Syracuse and Brooklyn Conservatory
of Music; sixth album since 1999. Betty Carter is less an influence
than one of her few peers in jazz history: someone who makes art more
difficult and demanding than we're often comfortable with, a singer
who commands a band as disciplined and prickly as the star. Victor's
Ensemble includes Anders Nilsson, one of the most distinctive jazz
guitarists working today, and Ken Filiano, one of those bassists who
makes everyone sound better -- his presence is as reliable a stamp
of quality as casting Harry Dean Stanton in a movie.
- Fabric Trio: Murmurs (2010 , NoBusiness):
Sax trio, recorded in Berlin: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano/alto sax),
Mike Majkowski (bass), Yorgos Dimitriadis (drums). First album, a
limited edition (300 copy) vinyl LP, which seems to be a market
niche. Free jazz, joint improv, as the title suggests they tend
to keep their adventures toned down -- no screech, no bombast,
but also no clichés, nothing pat. I find them refreshing, but not
very distinct from dozens of other fine records. I'm also glad
I have a CD-R and don't have to flip the thing over.
- Tim Warfield: Inspire Me! (2013, HHM): Mainstream
tenor saxophonist, has mostly recorded for Criss Cross -- I thought
his early records there were terrific (e.g., A Cool Blue and
Gentle Warrior) -- but the label tends to underwhelm, and
Warfield's releases have tailed off over the years. (Some Criss
Cross artists also show up on labels like Sharp Nine and Posi-Tone
that consistently get sharper, more vibrant sound.) Warfield returns
here with a warm and comforting sound, with Antoine Drye's trumpet
on five cuts, Kevin Hays on piano, plus bass and drums. Herb Harris
produced, and sings two pieces -- offhand and odd at first, now
just part of the flow.
- Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside):
With the "Joe Hill" suite at the end, this could have been called
Trombone for the Masses: I don't mind the rapper there but
the NYC Labor Choir takes some getting used to even though I feel
like saluting the political point. Everything else is just superb:
the opening "Ghost Riders in the Sky" with Steven Bernstein's slide
trumpet, Bob Dorough on "Here, There & Everywhere," Fay Victor
on "Trouble in Mind," Michael Doucet's violin on "Autumn Leaves"
and "Tennessee Waltz," familiar songs that seem perfect when they
pop up: "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue,"
"Green Onions," "Unchained Melody," "September Song." As for "Joe
Hill," well, organize.
A [November 19]
- Harold López-Nussa: New Day (2013, Jazz Village):
Pianist, from Cuba, still lives in Havana, has at least three previous
albums. Mostly trio, favoring intense rhythm as opposed to the usual
Afro-Cuban start-stop time shifts. Some cuts add Mayquel González on
trumpet, dropping the piano back to a comping role.
- Rich Rosenthal: Falling Up (2012 , Muse-Eek):
Guitarist, b. 1964, first album as leader, discography shows one side
credit, in Joe Giardullo Open Ensemble. Giardullo returns the favor
here, playing soprano and sopranino sax, nudging the quartet into free
territory. The leader both follows along and takes some surprising
turns on his own.
- John Hébert Trio: Floodstage (2012 , Clean
Feed):Bassist-led piano trio, Hébert composing all but two pieces:
one by pianist Benoît Delbecq and the trad gospel "Just a Closer
Walk With Thee." Gerald Cleaver is the drummer. Delbecq opens on
"analog synth and tronics" throwing the sound off a bit; otherwise
a fine piano trio album.
- New York Art Quartet: Call It Art (1964-65 ,
Triple Point, 5LP): Extravagant packaging, with the 5 LPs each in
its own jacket, packed alongside a 156-page clothbound book, both
enclosed in a very handsome plywood box. The group, with Roswell
Rudd on trombone and John Tchicai on alto sax, was more at home
in Copenhagen than in New York. They cut the one album they're
known for on ESP-Disk, another for Fontana in England, but other
recordings have leaked out over the years -- notably Old Stuff,
released by Cuneiform in 2010, and now this stack of "previously
uncirculated" vinyl. Hard for me to evaluate -- among other things
I'm just not accustomed to evaluating things in 15-20 minute chunks
anymore -- but everything I play has its fascinating points. Retails
at $340 (plus shipping), which I regard as insane. But it is quite
a piece of product, and presumably the market knows best.
- Kris Davis: Massive Threads (2012 ,
Thirsty Ear): One of the most impressive pianists to emerge in the last decade,
even if the more obvious reason why her Quartet albums were so successful
was saxophonist Tony Malaby. Second solo album, a mix of loud and quiet
exercises, each impressive in its own way.
B+(***) [advance: November 5]
- Angelica Sanchez/Wadada Leo Smith: Twine Forest
(2013, Clean Feed): Piano-trumpet duets, the songs composed by the
pianist, who makes a strong impression when leading then falls to
the side when the trumpet takes over. He's impressive too, and when
the pair connect they can blow you away. Then they back off leaving
you to wonder what's going on, before they attack again.
- Pascal Niggenkemper Vision7: Lucky Prime (2012
, Clean Feed): German bassist, based in New York, I first
noticed him in HNH (with Joe Hertenstein and Thomas Heberer),
but he has a couple of trio records with Robin Verheyen (sax)
and Tyshawn Sorey (drums), and now this expansive septet. Emilie
Lesbros wrote lyrics to most pieces, sings, and directs traffic,
which can get chaotic -- Frank Gratkowski (bass clarinet, alto
sax), Eve Risser (piano), Frantz Loriot (viola), Els Vandeweyer
(vibes, marimba), and Christian Lillinger (drums): combinations
that are inherently risky but succeed more often than not.
- Anna Kaluza/Artur Majewski/Rafal Mazur/Kuba Suchar: Tone
Hunting (2012 , Clean Feed):Alto sax, trumpet/cornet,
acoustic bass guitar, drums/kalimba. Kaluza is German, from Köln,
has a couple previous albums. The others are probably Polish --
I've run across Mazur and Majewski before. Group improvs, no titles
(unless you count "Track 1," etc.), no clash, just even-tempered
exploration. The kalimba is a nice touch.
- Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley: Ailanthus/Altissima: Bilateral
Dimenions of 2 Root Songs (2008 , Triple Point, 2LP):
Inconveniently distributed in "microgroove" -- expensive terminology
for vinyl -- this has been sitting on my shelf for several years.
Oxley was one of Taylor's drummer duet partners in his 1988 Berlin
series -- their album was Leaf Palm Hand -- and they continued
to work together with William Parker in the Feel Trio, with this
reunion occurring twenty years after their initial meeting. This
has flashes, especially on side A, where both are as brilliant as
you'd expect, but having to flip side and shuffle breaks up the
momentum. Isn't that why they invented CDs?
- Soar Trio: Emergency Management Heist (2013, Edgetone):
Sax-piano-bass trio, the best known member pianist Thollem McDonas, with
23 albums in the past 6 years (one of which I've heard and, I might add,
liked). The others are Skeeter C.R. Shelton on alto sax and Joel Peterson
on bass. Testy, free-ranging music, doesn't seem to be excessively slowed
down by the lack of a drummer.
- Volcán (2013, 5Pasion): Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba
is the main talent hiding behind this eponymous group album -- wrote three
(of eight songs), the others standards including "Salt Peanuts" from his
mentor. The others are Jose Armando Gola (electric bass), Horacio "El Negro"
Hernandez (drums), and Giovanni "Mañenguito" Hidalgo (congas, percussion),
with Maridalia Hernandez singing one of two João Bosco tunes.
- Two Al's: And the Cowgirls Kept On Dancing (2013, Brokken):
One Albert and one Alan, but I guess that works. Albert van Veenendaal has
recorded a number of remarkable albums on prepared piano -- Predictable
Point of Impact and Minimal Damage are two I particularly like.
Alan Purves is credited with "percussion, squeaky toys, brim bram, little
instruments" -- in other words, exogenous effects as unpredictable as the
tricks wired into the piano. Works much more often than not.
- Ayman Fanous/Jason Kao Hwang: Zilzal (2011 ,
Innova): Fanous plays guitar (6 tracks) and bouzouki (3). He was born
in Cairo, Egypt; grew up in the US, cut an album with cellist Tomas
Ulrich. Hwang is one of the best known violinists in jazz, playing
viola here on 4 (of 9) tracks -- either way the dominant instrument
- Peter Kerlin Octet: Salamander (2013, Innova): Bassist,
first album, lists eleven musicians here, so presumably not all play not
all of the time. Nor does Octet match up with any previous configuration:
no horns here, but the compositions are scored for two vibraphones, two
basses, organ, drums, percussion, and viola. (The excess on the musician
list comes from three bass and three viola credits.) Dense pieces with
a little sparkle, moving surely from the bottom.
- The Paul Smoker Notet: Landings (2012 , Alvas):
Quartet, actually: the leader on trumpet, Steve Salerno on guitar,
Drew Gress on bass, and Phil Haynes on drums. Smoker, b. 1941 in
Indiana, has a dozen albums (Wikipedia) or fifteen (AMG) or more
(two recent ones are in neither list), although I had only heard
one until recently. But the guitar sets the trumpet remarkably well,
and Smoker is always up to something interesting.
- Jörg Fischer/Matthias Schubert/Uli Böttcher: Lurk Lab
(2012, Gligg): Avant sax trio, listed in front cover order: drums, tenor
sax, live electronics. All joint credits, so figure improv. Böttcher
seems more like a second drummer than a surrogate bassist, but that's
probably an oversimplification -- he also throws in some whistles and
whizzes, and at full fury the flurry can be prety amazing.
- Lurk Lab: Live at Shelter Sounds (2012 ,
JazzHausMusik): Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), Uli Böttcher (live
electronics), Jörg Fischer (drums). Three live improv pieces, two
topping 20 minutes. Similar to what they came up with in the lab,
but the sound is a bit more distant, and the electronics can come
- William Parker Orchestra: Essence of Ellington: Live in
Milano (2012, AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Big band, only two deep
at trumpet and trombone but six saxes including Kidd Jordan, fêted
as "special guest" although half the orchestra are more famous (or
should be), especially the rhythm section: Dave Burrell, Parker,
and Hamid Drake. This mixes Ellington standards with originals
where Parker seeks what he calls "essences" -- a license to quote
and maul and occasionally find some sort of synthesis. When the
band eventually converges on a melody, Ernie Odoom sings familiar
lyrics or, in "The Essence of Ellington," totally new ones. Messy,
but also chock full of wonderful passages. Surely Duke would agree:
- Autumn in Augusta: Songs My Mama Would Like (2013,
self-released, EP): Lucy Smith sings five old songs over piano-bass-drums,
one a melody from someone named Beethoven, two others from lesser known
artists who sign their work as "Traditional." Just runs 18:42 but feels
- Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips: Moment to Moment (2013
, self-released): Leaders play piano and trumpet, respectively,
backed by bass and drums. First album I can find by either. To call
it a ballad album slights its smoky makeout appeal.
- Carolyn Lee Jones: The Performer (2013, Cat'nround
Sound): Standards singer, second or third album (not sure what to call
Live in Dallas), has a long list of musicians shuffling in and
out, including a saxophonist I like and a flautist I don't mind. As
usual, this rises and falls with the songs -- give me "Old Devil Moon"
any time -- but she gets more mileage than most out of "Let's Get Lost"
and goes for pure seductiveness after that.
- The Fat Babies: 18th & Racine (2013, Delmark):
Trad jazz band from Chicago, second album, bassist Beau Sample is
the nominal leader but Andy Schumm (cornet, alto sax) wrote the
one original and arranged most of the rest, favoring the late '20s
over the later swing era.
- Ari Brown: Groove Awakening (2013, Delmark): Tenor
saxophonist from Chicago, started in R&B bands and always seemed
a pat for free jazz groups, but he finds his groove here with Kirk
Brown on piano and Dr. Guz adding extra percussion.
- Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra: Aphelion (2013
, Aerophonic): Free sax trio, bassist Abrams also playing guimbri
and small harp, which gets him more solo space, and takes away from the
leader's often fierce sax runs.
- Frank Wess: Magic 201 (2011 , IPO): A sequal to
last year's Magic 101, cut a couple months later with a similar
group -- Kenny Barron and Winard Harper are on both, Rufus Reid takes
over at bass here, and Russell Malone joins on guitar -- a real plus.
The other change is that Wess plays some flute here, not just tenor sax
as before. But since his death last fall at 91, this is all the more
poignant -- would be even if it didn't close with "If It's the Last
Thing I Do."
- George Cables: Icons & Influences (2013 ,
HighNote): Pianist, has been recording since the mid-1970s, including
some of the finest albums of Art Pepper's last fling. Without a horn,
his trios -- this is one with Dezron Douglas and Victor Lewis -- never
quite blow me away but he's a quintessential jazz pianist, capable of
stretching out past an hour without ever a slack spot.
- Jon Di Fiore: Yellow Petals (2013 , Third
Freedom Music): Drummer-led piano trio, with Billy Test on piano
and Adrian Morning on bass. Di Fiore, who hails from NJ, wrote all
the pieces, and if he mixes the drums up a bit, he makes that work
- Pete Mills: Sweet Shadow (2013 , Cellar Live):
Tenor saxophonist, originally from Toronto but based in Columbus [OH],
fourth album. Fluid at high speed, has a nice tone on ballads, backed
by both piano and guitar, but Pete McCann has most of the memorable spots.
- Rob Derke & the NY Jazz Quartet: Blue Divide
(2013 , Zoho): NYJAZZ seems to be related to a larger organization,
but let's stick with this quartet. First album for Derke, who plays
soprano saxophone with surprising vigor. Bassist Carlo De Rosa wrote
a couple pieces; Aruán Ortiz plays piano, and Eric McPherson drums.
- The Danny Petroni Blue Project: The Blue Project
(2013 , DPS): Post-Sandy blues from the former New Jersey shore.
Petroni plays guitar, subcontracting the vocals to Frank Lacy -- you're
more likely to know him for his trombone and maybe even flumpet, but
he's a forthright blues shouter and that's all this set calls for.
- 1032K: That Which Is Planted: Live in Buffalo
and Rochester (2013, Passin' Thru): Trio: Kevin Ray on bass,
Andrew Drury on drums, and Ku-umba Frank Lacy on trombone, flumpet,
voice, and percussion. The vocal preaches a text familiar to anyone
who grew up on the Bible (or the Byrds), one that sticks in my craw
because I doubt that there's ever a justifiable "time for war" --
but the music is Mingus, with Ayler, McCall, and Threadgill also
given respect. Lacy has been around a long time but only has three
albums under his name. Terrific to see him the focal point here.
- Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski: Gathering Call
(2013 , Palmetto): Pianoless quartet plus piano player, the split
horn roles filled admirably by Jeff Lederer (reeds) and Kirk Knuffke
(cornet), playing two Ellington riff pieces and a bunch of the drummer's
originals. The guest is neither here nor there.
- Archie Shepp: Attica Blues Orchestra Live: I Hear the Sound
(2013 , Archieball): Tenor saxophonist, cut Attica Blues
back in 1971 when Rockefeller's massacre of prisoners and guards was
news, and still carries the flame, in part because he pioneered a
meeting of black folk and avant-jazz specific to the era and still
resonant today. But his sax has mellowed over the years, as has his
anger, and the singers that lead most of this revival meeting, not
least Cecile McLorin Salvant, are just pros.
- Pete Robbins: Pyramid (2013 , Hate Laugh Music):
Alto saxophonist, AMG lists five albums since 2002 but that's too few,
a postbop player with some edge and a terrific quartet here -- Vijay
Iyer on piano, Eivind Opsvik on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.
- Mikolaj Trzaska/Devin Hoff/Michael Zerang: Sleepless in
Chicago (2011-12 , NoBusiness): Free jazz sax trio,
the Polish alto saxophonist has impressed every time I've heard him,
and his pick-up band in Chicago know the drill. Short enough for LP,
limited to 300 copies, presumably because the market knows best.
B+(***) [CDR of LP]
- Sarah Manning: Harmonious Creature (2013 ,
Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, second album, with strings -- Eyvind
Kang on violin, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar, Rene Hart on bass --
leading the way, drums backing, but doesn't let this settle into
chamber jazz niceties.
- Barbara Levy Daniels: Love Lost and Found (2013 ,
Bidproductions): Standards singer, from (and I gather still based in)
Buffalo, seems to be in her sixties -- "over 50 years ago" Ray Charles
heard her as a 12-year-old and urged ABC to sign her, resulting in "a
number of singles" -- returning to music after working 30 years as a
psychotherapist. Second album, arranged by pianist John DiMartino,
with Warren Vaché on cornet -- their interplay on "Comes Love" is a
- YAPP: Symbolic Heads (2011 , NoBusiness):
Free jazz quartet -- Bryan Rogers (tenor sax), Alban Bailly (guitar),
Matt Engle (bass), David Flaherty (drums) -- best when they let it
all hang out, possibly because even then they keep it tight.
B+(***) [CDR of LP]
- Christine Wodrascka/Jean Luc Cappozzo/Gerry Hemingway: 2° Étage:
Grey Matter (2012 , NoBusiness): Piano, trumpet/bugle, and
percussion -- the first two born in the 1950s in France, with checkered
discographies as they've bounced off various avant-jazz figures; this is
another jumble of discordant sounds in search of something deeper.
- David Krakauer: The Big Picture (2013 , Table
Pounding): Clarinetist, had a part in the 1980s klezmer revival, both
playing for the Klezmatics and leading his Klezmer Madness, and has
continued more or less in that vein. Movie music this time, falls
into a string section chamber trap midway but recovers with a swell
I soon recognize as "People" -- have scarcely heard that since the
Streisand hit in the 1960s, and it never sounded better.
- Nir Felder: Golden Age (2011 , Okeh): Guitarist,
from upstate New York, first album although it seems like I've bumped
into him on most of his dozen side-credits since 2009. Quartet with
Aaron Parks on piano. Sme pieces overlay quotes from famous speeches,
adding to the sense of historical sweep.
- Sonny Simmons/Delphine Latil/Thomas Bellier: Beyond the
Planets (2013 , Improvising Beings, 2CD): Avant-garde
in the 1960s, now passing 80, Simmons plays cor anglais and alto
sax none too vigorously, adding depth and resonance to duets --
the first disc with harpist Latil, who starts out solo before
their 47:03 "Sacred Moments," and guitarist Bellier, who's thinking
of the distance between planets and the awesomeness of the universe.
- Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre: Hasparren (2011 ,
NoBusiness): Baritone sax and bass duets, nothing rushed.
- Ben Flocks: Battle Mountain (2013 , self-released):
Tenor saxophonist, originally from Santa Cruz, now based in Brooklyn,
first album, quintet unknown to me (guitar, piano/Fender, bass, drums),
songbook draws on folk classics -- "Shenandoah," "Gee Baby Ain't I Good
to You" -- many rooted in his native California. Reminds me as much of
Dave Alvin's King of California as anything in the jazz world.
Needless to say, his "Tennessee Waltz" doesn't match Sonny Rollins' --
but how could it?
- Haynes & Smoker: It Might Be Spring (2013, Alvas):
- Lena Bloch: Feathery (2012 , Thirteenth Note):
Tenor saxophonist, from Moscow, emigrated to Israel in 1990, studied
in Germany and Canada and wound up in the US, recording her debut in
NJ. Quartet with Dave Miller (guitar), Cameron Brown (bass), and
Billy Mintz (drums), each contributing a song. Postbop tone, wouldn't
call it "feathery" but it sinks into the aether, occasionally spitting
out something reminding you to listen.
- Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald: Trio and Duo in New
Orleans (2002-05 , NoBusiness, 2CD): Avant tenor sax
player, both from and based in New Orleans, looks like he recorded
once in 1983 with the Improvisational Arts Quintet, but his career
didn't pick up until he turned 65 in 2000. Since then he's become
famous enough he got a cameo in Tremé -- when he shows up
with Donald Harrison at a private after hours conclave, the trad
trombonist character says something like, "ut-oh, the serious guys
have arrived." Drummer Alvin Fielder was in that 1983 group and
plays on both discs here, with the trio disc adding bassist Peter
Kowald, who does a lot to soften the rough edges -- a plus, but
the duo disc sharpens them, and that works too.
- Jon Irabagon/Mark Helias/Barry Altschul: It Takes All Kinds
(2013 , Irabbagast/Jazzwerkstatt): Tenor sax trio, as was Altschul's
The 3dom Factor last year (only with a different bassist), or for
that matter Irabagon's Foxy (yet another bassist). This is a bit
more scattershot than the others.
- James Brandon Lewis: Divine Travels (2013 , Okeh):
Tenor saxophonist, from Buffalo, second album, a trio with William Parker
and Gerald Cleaver, weaving free sax around more traditional patterns.
- Craig Handy: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (2011
, Okeh): Tenor saxophonist, played Coleman Hawkins in the Lester
Young cutting match in Altman's Kansas City -- seemed like a
break at the time, but he's had a very spotty recording career. He
goes back to R&B here, playing Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery,
"On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "I Almost Lost My Mind" and
"Mojo Workin'" -- Dee Dee Bridgewater and Clarence Spady sing one
each, Wynton Marsalis handles the trumpet slot, and Helin Riley
plays washboard as well as drums.
- Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (2011-13
, Accurate): Saxophonist Ken Field's Boston group, personnel
shifting among six live dates excerpted here but they're all of a
piece, tapping into New Orleans tradition, most impressively on an
old Albert Brumley song which segues into an avant-Dixieland "Que
- Gene Ludwig-Pat Martino Trio: Young Guns (1968-69 ,
High Note): Organ-guitar trio, with Randy Gelispie on drums. Martino's
career ended with an aneurysm in 1979, then was resurrected, to much
hoopla, in 1987, not that (in admittedly light sampling) I've found
his work -- mostly soul jazz riffs with a touch of Montgomery -- all
that impressive. Organist Ludwig has an even spottier discography with
no melodrama explaining the gaps -- a couple mid-1960s albums, one in
1979, a steady stream of retro-soul jazz efforts since he turned 60 in
1997. This, however, is terrific, with the guitar racing so fast that
Ludwig never gets to settle into his groove. Previously unreleased, I
- Jeff Ballard Trio: Time's Tales (2013 , Okeh):
Drummer, best known in the Brad Mehldau Trio although he has about 80
credits since 1988. First album with his name up front, an unconventional
trio with guitarist Lionel Loueke and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon.
They flirt with guitar-driven fusion early on, then slow it down and
mix up the beat giving the sax more space.
- Regina Carter: Southern Comfort (2013 , Sony
Masterworks): Violinist, won a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2006, the
year of her best album to date, I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental
Journey, and she has finally topped that with another sentimental
journey, looping back around her family tree through a series of
mostly trad. pieces and casts her into an old fashioned fiddle role,
not that it's ever that straightforward.
- Kris Davis Trio: Waiting for You to Grow (2013 ,
Clean Feed): Pianist, from Canada, got our attention with a series of
quartet albums featuring Tony Malaby (2008's Rye Eclipse is the
one to seek out), then lately has tried to scale back with intriguing
solo and trio albums. This feels like a breakthrough. It helps, of
course, to have John Hébert and Tom Rainey on board, but every piece
shows us something new, from roughly fractured to delicately melodic.
- Matt Bauder and Day in Pictures: Nightshades (2013
, Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, protégé of Anthony Braxton,
has a handful of records including 2010's Day in Pictures,
nearly the same quintet (Kris Davis replaces Angelica Sanchez at
piano; on both records: Nate Wooley, Jason Ajemian, Tomas Fujiwara).
An explosive mix, especially with Davis, but Bauder manages to stay
within postbop bounds (what Jason Gubbels describes as "edgy Blue
Note circa 1966").
- Juhani Aaltonen: To Future Memories (2010 , TUM):
In recent polls, I've written his name in as best flute player around,
and there's plenty here (and elsewhere) to justify those votes, but his
main instrument is tenor sax, and I'd be happier if he focused more on
it. With pianist Iro Haarla, two bassists, a drummer and a percussionist,
this is a bit on the moody side but nearly triumphs anyway. Also has two
stretches of exceptional flute.
- Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement
Sessions Vol. 2 (2012 , Clean Feed): Tenor sax-bass-drums
trio, follows up a pretty good Vol. 1 released in 2012, and it's
not clear why they held this batch back: it consistently hits the sweet
spot in free jazz between chaos and beauty.
- Tord Gustavsen Quartet: Extended Circle (2013 ,
ECM): Norwegian pianist, satisfies ECM's fetish for quiet understatement
but consistently plays well above the norm. Quartet adds the tenor sax
of Tore Brunborg to his trio with Mats Eilertsen and Jarle Vespestad.
Brunborg also fits the ECM model -- quiet and thoughtful, the results
broadly atmospheric -- and again raises the bar (a bit).
- Eric Revis: In Memory of Things Yet Seen (2013 ,
Clean Feed): Bassist, mostly associated with Branford Marsalis but his
own records have been more avant-oriented. However, this one could be
diagnosed as schizo, most obviously in the sax matchup, with everyday
postbopper Bill McHenry on tenor and avant-barnburner Darius Jones on
alto (with Marsalis dropping in on a couple cuts). I go back and forth
on Jones, and he's only occasionally in top form here, but I wound up
seduced where I least expected it -- the quiet spot melodies, like part
three of "The Tulpa Chronicles."
- Tim Hegarty: Tribute (2013 , Miles High):
Tenor saxophonist, first album, a "'tribute' to my teachers," a list
which starts with a 13-year-old Hegarty studying under Frank Foster.
Two originals, the rest pieces by saxophonists (plus Monk) coming
out of the 1950s, especially Jimmy Heath (4 pieces). Mark Sherman's
vibes are a nice touch, and Kenny Barron, Rufus Reid, and Carl Allen
- Mike DiRubbo: Threshold (2013 , Ksanti): Alto
saxophonist, eighth album since 1999, most on mainstream labels (Criss
Cross, Sharp Nine, Posi-Tone, SteepleChase). Hard bop quintet, but
sounds newer than a 1960s Blue Note throwback, with Brian Charette
providing strong support on piano and Josh Evans hitting hot spots
- Hutchinson Andrew Trio: Prairie Modern (2012 ,
Chronograph): Canadian piano trio, pianist Chris Andrew the main
writer, with bassist Kodi Hutchinson collaborating on two pieces,
and Karl Schwonik playing drums. Crisp and clean, well above average,
but what grabs your attention is the guest saxophonist on six cuts:
he plays like Donny McCaslin, for good reason.
- Erik Friedlander: Nighthawks (2013 , Skipstone):
Cellist, fifteen-plus albums since 1995, gets a tight string groove
going with Doug Wamble on guitar and Trevor Dunn on bass and won't let
go. With Michael Sarin on drums.
- Mike Longo: Step On It (2013 , CAP): Pianist,
studied with Oscar Peterson in 1961, played with Dizzy Gillespie
1966-73, has a couple dozen albums since 1972 including a big band
project (The New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble). This one's
a piano trio, his rhythm famous enough to get their names on the
cover: Bob Cranshaw and Lewis Nash. One original, plus covers that
include one from Diz, one from Kurt Weill, three from Wayne Shorter,
and my fave, something called "Tico Tico."
- Itaru Oki: Chorul Zukan (2013 , Improvising
Beings): Japanese trumpet/flugelhorn player (judging from the cover
pics, looks like he's merged both horns into the same contraption),
b. 1941 in Hyogo prefecture, moved to France 1974; AMG credits him
with 8 albums, Discogs with 18. This is solo, although it sometimes
sounds like his lines overlap. Fairly minimal at first, but grows
- Noah Rosen/Alan Silva: O.I.L.: Orchestrated Improvised
Lives (2013, Improvising Beings): Rosen's a pianist, cut a
well-regarded trio album for Cadence in 2000 but has rarely been
heard from since. Silva is normally a bassist, started recording
in 1969 in something called The Celestial Communications Orchestra.
His credit here is "orchestral synthesizer" so you can think of him
as a one-man backing orchestra but he's more upfront like a duo
- Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings: 1-4 (2012
, Constant Sorrow, 4CD): De trop, but I'm not sure you'd
get a superior best-of if you reduced it to a single disc, and the
rambling through the ramshackle past and random discoveries are much
of the fun -- the booklet, an essential part of the experience, is
already too abbreviated. Lowe's alternate title is "A Jew at Large
in the Minstrel Diaspora" but that doesn't clarify much either, at
least not as much as the intro story where Lowe is being hectored by
Wynton Marsalis on minstrelsy and tries to counter that it's not so
cut-and-dry. Indeed, it isn't, but rather than argue the point (as
he's done in books like That Devilin' Tune), he just picks
up a lot of the past and, aided by eighteen often-stellar musicians,
slings it into the future, where it's even more peculiar.
- Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: The Shape of Doomjazz to Come/Saxophone
Giganticus (2013 , RareNoise): Sax trio from Scotland:
Rebecca Sneddon on alto sax, Colin Stewart on electric bass, and Paul
Archibald on drums. First album, designed as two EPs on one CD, the
pieces built on deep fuzzy bass riffs with the sax cutting or wailing,
closer to free than doom metal but resonates with that chord.
- Colin Edwin/Lorenzo Feliciati: Twinscapes (2013 ,
RareNoise): Two bassists ("fretless and fretted") with rock backgrounds,
Edwin from Porcupine Tree, Feliciati from Naked Truth and Berserk, add
keybs, guitar, programming, and toys to their rhythms; also guest spots
for David Jackson (sax), Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet), Andi Pupato
(percussion, from Nik Bärtsch's Ronin), and Roberto Gualdi (drums, from
- Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs: Spectral (2012
, Aerophonic): Three horns -- alto sax, trumpet, tenor/sopranino sax,
respectively -- nothing else, so this is a little like Ken Vandermark's
Sonore but the players complement rather than compete: keeps the volume
in check, focusing attention on the interplay, which is quite remarkable.
- International Orange (2013 , self-released):
Debut album from David Phelps' guitar trio,
with Gaku Takanashi on bass and Todd Isler on drums. Wouldn't call
it a groove album but it moves along smartly, everyone contributing.
One oddity: my copy has the same songs but different order from the
one available on
My copy is in a brown sleeve with a bit of orange on the cover.
Don't know whether that's low budget finished product or promo.
- Zan Stewart: The Street Is Making Music (2013 ,
Mobo Dog): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1944, "a lifelong musician" but this
is his first album -- he made his living as a journalist (retiring in
2010 from the Newark Star-Ledger) and radio DJ, and won a Deems Taylor
award for liner notes on Eric Dolphy. Mainstream sax quartet with Keith
Saunders on piano, Adam Gay on bass, and Ron Marabuto on drums. Swings
a bit, and grows on you.
- Ross Hammond: Humanity Suite (2013 , Prescott):
Guitarist, originally from Kentucky but based in Sacramento, where he
has been very productive since 2003. This was recorded live, a group
with two saxophonists (Catherine Sikora and Vinny Golia) and trombone
(Clifford Childers, also credited with euphonium, bass trumpet, and
harmonica). No track list, but the "suite" concept is suggested by
various shifts -- moderate passages which develop themes and momentum,
and louder ones when the horns uncork.
- Ellen Rowe Quintet: Courage Music (2013 , PKO):
Pianist, fourth album since 2001, leads a postbop quintet -- trumpet
player Ingrid Jensen gets "featuring credit" on the front cover but
tenor saxophonist Andrew Bishop is every bit as critical. Tends toward
a neat complexity, but can get unruly at times.
- Andrew Hadro: For Us, the Living (2013 , Tone
Rogue): Baritone saxophonist, first album after side-credist with
Chico Hamilton, Chris Potter, and Tony Malaby. Quartet, backed by
piano (Carmen Staaf), bass (Daniel Foose), and drums (Matt Wilson).
- Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas: Riverside
(2012 , Greenleaf Music): Dedicated to Jimmy Giuffre (1921-2008),
always a slippery subject, and writer of one piece. Chet Doxas plays
clarinet and sax, and wrote three pieces. Swallow was an obvious choice
as he played bass in Giuffre's legendary trio. I've never quite got a
handle on Giuffre's contribution to the avant-garde, but the brilliant
trumpet adds shine and lustre to every twist and turn.
- Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I'll Fly Away (2013
, Pfmentum): Bass and piano, respectively. Three takes of the
title tune fairly leap out of the grooves, at least the heads, while
the various improvs on them wander amusingly. Other standards --
"Down at the Cross," "Amazing Grace," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus,"
"When the Saints Go Marching In," "Crying in the Chapel" -- get the
same clever treatment but the earthly melodies are what stick with
- Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri: Two Men Walking (2013
, Leo): Tenor sax and viola duet, the two following the same
general path but separately, sometimes acknowledging the other but
not tracking too closely. Avant purists may give this the edge
over Perelman's more conventional trio and quartet records -- two
just released -- because this one is freer, but that also makes
it more difficult, more work and less fun.
- Ivo Perelman: Book of Sound (2013 , Leo):
Sax trio with William Parker on bass but no drummer -- pianist Matthew
Shipp has to suffice, but he plays as though there is no such thing as
the drummer's job. Terrific pianist, of course -- no one has more
experience comping behind avant-sax greats (e.g., David S. Ware).
Not sure Perelman is one, but he's very good, and has developed a
technique with short curved lines, kind of like Van Gogh's maddest
- Ivo Perelman: The Other Edge (2014, Leo): Recorded
in January, first I've noticed this year. Conventional sax quartet
with Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and Whit Dickey
(drums), which is to say Shipp's most common piano trio. A regular
beat pumps up the energy level, and when the beat strays Perelman
just works harder. The best of this batch, and one of his best ever.
- Xavi Reija: Resolution (2013 , Moonjune):
Spanish (or Catallan) drummer, leads an "electric trio" with Daisan
Jevtovic on guitar and Bernat Hernandez on bass. Sharp beats, not
that they're all that regular but they keep it moving, and the
guitarist is someone to remember.
- Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (2013 ,
Masterworks): Probably the best jazz violinist around, I was rather
taken aback in 2008 when she released a vocal album as some sort of
country chanteuse. I much preferred the jazz album she released at
the same time, and had forgotten about her as a singer in 2012 when
she released Mischief & Mayhem, even better. Now she's
back singing again, her voice flavored with a whiff of high and
lonesome, and her songwriting has matured so much that every song
offers real human interest. Takes the occasional fiddle break, too.
- Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me (2012 ,
Whirlwind): Pianist, AMG lists two albums but I've heard three,
reportedly draws on experiences in Haiti for the struggle here but
it's hard to hear that. Also unclear what guitarist Ben Monder brings
to the party, but Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, well,
this is his best performance in years, especially with the pianist
providing the dense undergrowth for his jungle bop.
- Lisa Ferraro: Serenading the Moon (2013 ,
Pranavasonic Universal): Standards singer, previously known as Lisa
Yvonne Ferraro, is based in San Francisco, has a handful of albums
since 2002, sometimes appears in a duo with guitarist Erika Luckett.
Not exceptional but she gives fine readings of timeless songs, and
was smart and/or fortunate enough to come up with an all-star band:
she gives Houston Person "featuring" credit on the front cover, as
she should, but John DiMartino, James Chirillo, Ray Drummond, and
(especially) Lewis Nash are also names worth bandying about.
- Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center (2013 ,
Delmark): Chicago bassist, has played with everyone in town, has a
couple previous albums (including a solo) but this is his big move
so he rounded up the stars: Greg Ward (alto sax), Keefe Jackson
(tenor sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Josh Berman (cornet),
Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), and Mike Reed
(drums) -- doesn't seem to be a piano town. My first reaction was
to note how bassist-composers tend to follow Mingus, but the liner
notes suggest that he's aiming for Ellington. Hits the mark here
and there, too, e.g. in "Dirt Cheap."
- The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (1965
, Elemental, 2CD): Archive dig uncovers two live sets: the first
a trio with Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums); the second
a quartet with Don Friedman (piano), Barre Phillips (bass), and Chambers.
Giuffre plays clarinet and tenor sax, the pieces (originals except for
Ornette Coleman's "Crossroads") moving well into free territory.
- Ty Citerman: Bop Kabbalah (2013 , Tzadik):
Guitarist, first album after a decade with the group Gutbucket.
Quartet, two horns -- Ben Holmes on trumpet and Ken Thomson on bass
clarinet, a nice combination -- plus drums, picks up pieces of
klezmer then improvises them away.
- Joe Beck: Get Me (2006 , Whaling City Sound):
Late guitarist (1945-2008), had close to thirty records starting in
the late 1960s, perhaps the best known working with singer Esther
Phillips. This is a live date at Annie's Jazz Island in Berkeley [CA],
mostly ballads backed with bass and drums, a fair amount of patter
including a story about partying with Jobim, introducing "Corcovado."
Very personable, works nicely as memorabilia.
- Yosvany Terry: New Throned King (2013 , 5Pasion):
Cuban saxophonist, moved to New York in 1999, looks back here not just
to Cuba but through it back to Africa via the Arará culture, one of
several African religions to survive slavery. Heavy on percussion and
vocals, including Ishmael Reed reading a poem. Could use more sax.
- The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope (2013 ,
Mack Avenue): Guitarist Cline is credited with "voice," but that's
just something fed into one of his effects gadgets -- no singing
here. With Trevor Dunn on bass, Scott Amendola on drums, everyone
on effects, and scattered guests including Zeena Parkins' electric
harp, fusion with a lot of shine and shimmer, but they always seem
to come up lame at the end when they should be doubling down.
- Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks (2013 ,
Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, has been on a furious
run since he retired from his day job, mostly with this quartet,
which deserves another hearing in no small part because trombonist
Michael Vlatkovich has never pushed the leader harder.
- Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet (2011 , Clean Feed):
Portuguese tenor saxophonist, has always leaned free but seems more
prickly than usual here, all the better to match up with guitarist
Manuel Mota. Three long joint improvs, backed on bass and drums by
Hernani Faustino and Gabriel Ferrandini -- perhaps you recognize them
as two-thirds of RED Quartet?
- Andy Biskin Ibid: Act Necessary (2012 , Strudelmedia):
Clarinet player, says his original idea for this group was a chamber jazz
thing with three horns and bass, but when he replaced the bassist with a
drummer the music opened up. Sure did. Helps that the drummer is Jeff Davis,
and the brass contrast is provided by Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Brian Drye
(trombone), but no one made more of the freedom than the leader.
- Felipe Salles: Ugandan Suite (2013 , Tapestry):
Tenor saxophonist, from Sao Paulo, Brazil; teaches at U Mass Amherst.
Sixth album. Group includes David Liebman on wooden flute and his usual
saxes, Nando Michelin on piano, plus bass, drums, and two extra
percussionists on a long list of things I've never heard of. Suite
flows through five movements, often exquisite.
- Luther Gray/Jim Hobbs/Kaethe Hostetter/Winston Braman: Lawnmower
II (2012 , Clean Feed): Not clear whether they intend the
group to be called Lawnmower or Lawnmower II, but with the member names
on the cover, we'll parse it that way. Drummer Gray and alto saxophonist
Hobbs, who've played together in a trio with Joe Morris, were also in the
original 2010 Lawnmower, along with two guitarists, replaced here by
Hostetter on 5-string violin and Braman on electric bass. Hobbs usually
runs away with any group he's in, but focuses on shading here behind
- Sonny Rollins: Road Shows: Volume 3 (2001-12 ,
Okeh): Like with his first volume, Rollins continues to jump around
to piece these live concert bits together, picking six cuts here from
five concerts scattered over a decade, yet thanks to the leader they
sound sufficiently of a piece. Highlight here is a long solo stretch,
but really any time the sax takes the lead is a highlight. No patter,
but lots of applause.
- The Young Mothers: A Mother's Work Is Never Done
(2013 , Tektite): Norway's premier avant bassist, Ingebrigt Håker
Flaten, has lately been dividing his time between Oslo and Austin,
and from the latter base rounded up some Houston horn players --
Jason Jackson on sax, Jawwaad Taylor on trumpet (who also raps),
along with Austin guitarist Jonathan Horne and Chicago drummer
Frank Rosaly and put together Texas' answer to the Thing, and then
- Lee Konitz/Dan Tepfer/Michael Janisch/Jeff Williams: First
Meeting: Live in London Volume 1 (2010 , Whirlwind):
The bassist (Janisch) led the date and produced the album, but all
deferred to the master: "Under Mr. Konitz's instruction, anyone on
the bandstand could simply start playing a melody, and the rest of
the band could follow. Or not." Still, it's Konitz you listen to,
often sounding sublime, unmistakeable too.
- Max Johnson: The Prisoner (2012 , NoBusiness):
Bassist-led avant-chamber group -- at least that's the air you get
from Mat Maneri's viola, plus Ingrid Laubrock's tenor sax is more
likely to color in than honk or blare. With Tomas Fujiwara on drums,
this tends to sneak up on you.
- Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (2014, Pi):
Remarkably light for such a large group. Unlike the most comparable
octet, David Murray's Ming, none of the five horn players here
are especially imposing soloists, but they play roles exquisitely,
and the rhythm section -- Drew Gress (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums),
and Chris Dingman (vibes) -- is outstanding.
- Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (2014, Savant):
Not the revelation A Sunday Kind of Love was -- the songs are
less surefire, but saxophonist Houston Person is as dependable as ever,
the perfect accompanist for any singer with even a hint of blues in her
voice. And there's something to be said for venturing further afield,
especially when you end up with "Blow Top Blues."
- Hat: Twins (2012 , Hot Blues): Spanish quartet,
third album by my reckoning, the eponymous first recommended. This one,
with electric keybs, guitar, and bass, moves far enough into jazz-rock
it's tempting to call it fusion but that would pigeonhole it too much.
- Angles 9: Injuries (2013 , Clean Feed): Martin
Küchen's superb group continues to grow -- I last heard them as Angles
8 in By Way of Deception: Live in Ljubljana but I missed an
intervening release that was vinyl-only or something like that. Nonet,
new drummer but the the main change adding Magnus Broo on trumpet
(Goran Kajfes moves to cornet). Superb ensemble work, marred only
by a couple spots of uncertainty.
- Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (2011
, Hopscotch, 2CD): Group named for their 2007 debut album, with
Assif Tsahar on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Chad Taylor on drums,
and Cooper-Moore on a variety of homemade string instruments, notably
his diddley bo -- covers about three times the normal bass spectrum,
warping time and space for long stretches. And the tenor is always
searching and soulful.
- Assif Tsahar/Tatsuya Nakatani: I Got It Bad (2014,
Hopscotch): A short snatch of the Ellington classic, followed by 19
sax-drums improvs, many impressive but some don't quite get off the
- Tony Malaby Tamarindo: Somos Aqua (2013 ,
Clean Feed): Avant tenor saxophonist, tends to shine especially bright
as a sideman but has a couple dozen albums under his name, including
one this trio is named for. Trio, with William Parker on bass and
Nasheet Waits on drums, who do what you expect. Malaby is often
terrific as well, even on his soprano, featured a bit too much.
- Jason Ajemian/Tony Malaby/Rob Mazurek/Chad Taylor: A Way a
Land of Life (2006 , NoBusiness): Two-horn avant quartet --
bass, tenor sax, cornet, drums, both Ajemian and Mazurek also credited
with electronics -- most evident when they slow down. Otherwise, the
horns impress, as expected.
- Assif Tsahar/Gerry Hemingway/Mark Dresser: Code Re(a)d
(2011 , Hopscotch): BassDrumSax, if you know what I mean -- of
course, Tsahar's tenor sax is more agile than any trombone (even Ray
Anderson's), reeling off one long searching sequence after another, a
fusion of Ayler and Coltrane, what you might get if both were pushing
the same instrument at the same time.
- John Coltrane: Offering: Live at Temple University
(1966 , Impulse, 2CD): Previously unreleased, very late, well
into Coltrane's avant phase, although the song list is dominated by
his standard fare -- "Naima," "Crescent," "My Favorite Things" --
five tracks in all, all but the title track topping 16 minutes. The
side credits are as difficult to find in the booklet as they are to
hear on record: Pharoah Sanders is on hand but the only thing I'm
sure is his is the piccolo; Alice Coltrane on piano, Sonny Johnson
on bass, Rashied Ali on drums, and several others (including three
conga players) take part, but this starts off with a long stretch
of solo sax, searching on a quest that never really gets anywhere.
Last cut has an episode of Coltrane ululating at the mic. It all
seems a bit off.
- Lenny Pickett With the UMO Jazz Orchestra: The Prescription
(2012 , Random Act): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1954, played with Tower
of Power 1972-81, has mostly toured with rock acts, and held a regular
gig with Saturday Night Live since 1985 (musical director since
1995). Lots of side credits, but only the second album to feature his
name -- the other came out in 1987. Backed by the famed Finnish big band,
a smarter choice than the usual European big bands, although the main
thing is to let the leader show off his chops.
- Jason Ajemian: Folklords (2012 , Delmark): Not
the avant-jazz record I was expecting, even though the first two suites
are built around Monk and Mingus. Reportedly the first of a series
titled Mythadors, the nearest analog I can think of for the
vocals is John Lydon in Public Image Ltd., but the singer (presumably
Ajemian) doesn't have quite the range or presence, and the rhythm is
a lot knottier. Quartet: Kid Bliss on alto sax, Owen Stewart-Robertson
on guitar, Jason Nazary on drums. Lyrics in the booklet, but I can't
say as I've read much less followed.
- Ideal Bread: Beating the Teens: Songs of Steve Lacy
(2013 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Third album for the quartet -- Josh Sinton
(baritone sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Adam Hopkins (new on bass), and
Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- all focused on Steve Lacy tunes. Sinton avoids
the obvious by transposing the same tricks to the heavier horn. Seems
like a formula they can run with a long time, but maybe they shouldn't
bite so much off at once.
- Paul Giallorenzo's GitGo: Force Majeure (2013 ,
Delmark): Chicago pianist, has a couple previous albums, group name
reminds me of Mal Waldron and the piano reinforces that. Quintet
includes two horns from the original Vandermark 5: Jeb Bishop on
trombone and Mars Williams on various saxes. They were the fun guys
then, the ones who threatened to cross over while tripping over the
edge of the avant-garde. Closes with an irresistible bit of reggae.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: The Russian
Concerts (2013 , FMR): Canadian alto saxophonist
Carrier and drummer Lambert have been playing together since the
1990s, and recently have been traveling to Russia to play with
pianist Alexey Lapin: this is their fourth album together, and
they seem to be getting better -- the pianist is more fully
engaged here, and the saxophonist probes ever deeper.
- Adam Schroeder: Let's (2013 , Capri): Baritone
saxophonist, second album, figure him for a mainstream guy by the
company he keeps, but Anthony Wilson's guitar is a fine contrast to
the big horn, and John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton are a solid rhythm
section -- actually fun to hear without the big band baggage.
- Brian Groder Trio: Reflexology (2013 , Latham):
Trumpet player, hangs in avant circles -- trio mates are Michael Bisio
and Jay Rosen -- but doesn't sound so far out. Indeed, front cover
shows a footprint with various points mapped to musicians, with Oliver
Nelson out on a toe, Mingus and Joe Farrell at the arch, and Monk on
- Harold Rubin/Barre Phillips/Tatsuya Nakatani: E on a Thin
Line (2009 , Hopscotch): Clarinetist, also notable
as a visual artist, b. 1932 in South Africa, moved to Israel in the
1960s after running afoul of the Apartheid regime, has at least 10
albums since 1990 (AMG counts 2). This is the first I've heard, and
I'm struck by his distinctive avant approach.
- Saxophone Summit [Dave Liebman/Ravi Coltrane/Joe Lovano]:
Visitation (2011 , ArtistShare): The first such
"summit" was in 2004 with Liebman, Lovano, and Michael Brecker --
their Gathering of the Spirits was awful, even with the
comic relief of their wood flute special. Coltrane is a more
compatible replacement, and the first thing you notice is how
tightly the horns fit together, then how ably the rhythm section --
Phil Markowitz, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart -- help out. Six
pieces, one from each, each for all.
- The Ralph Peterson Fo'tet Augmented: Alive at Firehouse 12:
Vol 2: Fo' n Mo' (2013 , Onyx): I didn't get Vol. 1,
with a group drummer Peterson calls the Unity Project. Peterson's
Presents the Fo'Tet appeared in 1989 and that's been rubric
for his small group ever since: currently Felix Peikli (clarinet,
bass clarinet) and Joseph Doubleday (vibes). The "Mo'" is Steve Wilson
(soprano sax) and Eguie Castrillo (percussion), and they help plenty,
but the core group is impressive too.
- Cornelius Veit/Eugen Prieur/Jörg Fischer: Stromraum
(2012-13 , Spore Print): Guitar trio, Prieur playing electric
bass; second group album, the first in 2005, the trio going back as
far as 2000. Even scratchier than Fischer's trio with Marc Charig,
but the cohesiveness of the sound helps frame the invention.
- Peter Lerner: Continuation (2014, OA2): Guitarist,
from Chicago, second album, lists a large group but in two columns,
suggesting that the core group consists of pianist Willie Pickens
(listed as "featuring" on the cover) and bass and drums, with the
second column -- three horns including Geof Bradfield on saxes and
flute plus Joe Rendon on percussion -- supplementary. Still, they
all fit together nicely -- I'm tempted to use the word "slick" but
that would raise some false connotations. I haven't run across
Pickens before, but he earns his feature.
- Kali Z. Fasteau: Piano Rapture (2014, Flying Note):
From a very cosmopolitan (and as she says, "musical") family, Fasteau
got into avant-jazz through husband Donald Rafael Garrett (1932-89),
who had some connections with AACM and played on several late Coltrane
albums. They toured the world together, and after his death she kept
recording, playing dozens of exotic instruments and singing some, an
eclectic mix that never led to very satisfying albums. But lately
she's developed a rapport with a regular band -- Kidd Jordan (tenor
sax), L. Mixashawn Rozie (soprano and tenor sax), J.D. Parran (alto
flute and clarinet), and Ron McBee (percussion). Here she finally
settles into just playing piano and turns in a surprisingly solid
performance, centering horns which otherwise like to scatter
chaotically. Still has some spots you wonder about, but overall
- Sonny Simmons: Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom and Brilliance/Chasing
the Bird? (2006-14 , Improvising Beings, 8CD): This arrived
in a water-soaked plastic bag, the cardboard box destroyed, so it was
unclear just what the title was, some web sources suggesting 80th
Anniversary Box Set. Other web sources, and the now dry remains of
the box, lean toward the title above. Simmons started on alto sax with
ESP-Disk in the mid-1960s, recorded little in the 1970s and 1980s, cut
a couple major label albums in the mid-1990s (Warner Bros.), and then
from 2001 on has had a remarkably productive stretch flittering around
avant spots in Europe -- his main labels Norwegian, Polish, and now
French. The music here follows from a fairly basic concept even though
it's been elaborated into more than seven hours of variations: Simmons
plays alto sax and cor anglais, backed by amplified Indian instruments,
guitar and/or keyboard, and percussion. Extravagant exotica, randomly
replayable. Don't know how I was so fortunate to get a copy, especially
at a time when Sony can't be bothered to answer my email.
- Sam Reed Meets Roberto Magris: Ready for Reed (2014,
JMood): Alto saxophonist from Philadelphia, childhood friend and
protégé of Jimmy Heath, has been around long enough to have a story
about Charlie Parker asking him to hold his horn between sets, but
only has side credits to my knowledge: Teddy Pendergrass, but also
Odean Pope's Sax Choir. Relaxed, very charming mainstream set with
a full band, led by pianist Magris but including a trombone. Record
ends with an "audio notebook" -- an interview where you get to know
a bit more about Reed.
- Roberto Magris Space Trek: Aliens in a Bebop Planet
(2011 , JMood, 2CD): Concept is an alien discovering bebop and
working through it, with covers of Fats Navarro, Sir Charles Thompson,
Kenny Clarke, "The Gypsy," and "Giant Steps," and originals venturing
as far as fellow space traveller Sun Ra. Magris' piano is up to the
demands, but I'm often even more entranced by saxophonist Matt Otto,
who has a lock on the cool. Eddie Charles' three vocals are neither
here nor there. Paul Collins' "audio notebook" is a fully overblown
- Anne Waldman: Jaguar Harmonics (2014, Fast Speaking
Music): Poet, website lists 53 "books & pamphlets" going back to
1968 -- the highpoint of my interest in beat poetry although I don't
recall her, a missed connection, as she would have impressed me back
then. Website also mentions 18 audio recordings (but not this one),
the last four with music by Ambrose Bye (her son), credited with
"sounds and percussion" here. Striking music from cellistHa-Yang Kim,
plus free jazz horns by Daniel Carter and Devin Brahja Waldman.
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Cimmerian Crossroads
(2014, Edgetone): Plays alto and soprano sax, sometimes (judging from
pictures) at the same time. Has close to ten records since 1995 -- the
first I heard was last year's Truth Teller, and I'm turning into
a fan. I wouldn't have ID'ed the fourth cut as Ornette Coleman because
it sounds to me like what Charlie Parker should have sounded like if he
was really as great as they say. (But Coleman was my first alto sax
crush, so I'm easily swayed on the subject.) Romus' other alto master
is Arthur Blythe, who wrote one piece and is subject of another.
- Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (2013 , Tzadik):
Saxophonist, plays alto/soprano/tenor here, also shofar, the ram's
horn on the cover drawfing the alto, part of Tzadik's "Radical Jewish
Culture" series although it will mostly appear to jaded r&b fans,
featured in the comic, "The Book of Shapiro: A Tale of Rhythm &
Jews." Not sure how that's packaged, but aside from the leader, the
stars here are Adam Rudolph (frame drums, udu drum, shakers, bell)
and Marc Ribot (guitar) -- the latter's most scorching performance
- Tilting: Holy Seven (2013 , Barnyard): Montreal
quartet led by bassist Nicolas Caloia, adopting as group name the group's
first title. Jean Derome plays freewheeling baritone sax and bass flute
to fit the bass tones, with Guillaume Dostater on piano and Isaiah
Ceccarelli on drums.
- Amanda Ruzza/Mauricio Zottarelli: Glasses, No Glasses
(2013 , Pimenta Music): Guitar and drums; expecting that I was
surprised by the keyboards, their prominence and how they center this
fusion, and surprised again that the keyboardist is Leo Genovese,
whose name (unlike the headliners) I recognize.
- William Parker: Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012
(2006-12 , AUM Fidelity, 8CD): I previously wrote up Rhapsody
Streamnotes on four digital releases -- at least they showed up on
Rhapsody -- comprising six CDs here, so in my current end-of-year
rush I focused on the other two discs: a septet live at the Vision
Festival in 2009 with Billy Bang, Bobby Bradford, and James Spaulding
joining Parker's stellar Quartet (Lewis Barnes, Rob Brown, and Hamid
Drake -- they've been together since the extraordinary O'Neal's
Porch in 2000); and a big band (William Parker Creation Ensemble)
live shot at AMR Jazz Festival in Geneva in 2011. Both discs zing,
as does, really, the rest of the box. The two early live sets weren't
as consistent as I'd like (cf. 2005's Sound Unity), but their
top spots are rarely equalled, and the last two discs -- an expansion
of the group that cut Raining on the Moon and a revival of In
Order to Survive with an outstanding performance by Cooper-Moore on
piano -- just raise the bar. Music at this level deserves to go on
and on and on.
- Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana
(2012 , Clean Feed): An octet, with two trumpets (Nate Wooley,
Susana Santos Silva), trombone (Reut Regev), three saxes (David Bindman,
Avram Fefer, Mat Bauder), drums (Igal Foni), and the leader's bass mixed
up so it's always audible, the heartbeat of a growing, growling organism --
the most Mingus-like of bassists, both for his compositions that sum up
all worthwhile jazz history and as a bandleader who can whip a group up
into something larger than itself. Or so I thought, but after four plays
this has yet to slam down the deal. Damn close, though.
- Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed (2012 , Hot Cup):
Pianist, second album, trio with Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass
and Max Goldman on drums. Played this several times and have very
little to say about it -- a nice mix of Evans-esque melodic sense
with a more Jarrett-like rhythmic push, I guess.
- Anthony Branker & Word Play: The Forward (Towards Equality)
Suite (2014, Origin): Composer and director of a septet plus
singer Alison Crockett, with guest spoken word from schoolchildren
who have some serious wishes for a better world (none of which involve
cutting taxes on the rich). Mainstream with soul flair, the horns --
David Binney (alto sax), Ralph Bowen (tenor/soprano sax, flute), and
Conrad Herwig (trombone) especially striking.
- Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves
(2012 , Auand): Electric bass, tenor sax, drums, respectively.
Talmor, b. 1970 in France, is best known for his collaborations with
Lee Konitz, but those feature his string arrangements, where he it
is a delight to hear his mellow saxophone -- e.g., the closing "You
Go to My Head," which more than once convinced me to give this another
- Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (2013 ,
MCG Jazz): Sax-drums duets, not sure if Wilson plays anything but alto
but it's mostly in that range. Three Wilson originals, two Ellingtons,
Fats Waller, two Monk medleys, Gillespie, Ornette Coleman, "Freedom
Jazz Dance." Wilson is fine, but this is an even better showcase for
Nash, probably the best mainstream drummer since, well, ever.
- Nobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy: An die Musik
(2006 , Soul Note): Japanese pianist, based in Baltimore, with drums
and tabla, not exactly a piano trio but the rich, repetitive mid-to-uptempo
piano riffs limit the need for a bassist and the extra complexity to the
percussion is a plus. Stowe sent me a pile of discs quite some time ago,
and if this isn't the best, it's at least the easiest to get into.
- Nobu Stowe: L'Albero Delle Meduse (2009 ,
self-released): Scant evidence of this ever being released -- I'm
working off an advance and assume pianist Stowe is the leader only
because he sent it to me. The pieces are joint improvs (except for
the closer, Jim Pepper's "Witchi-Tai-To"), and Achille Succi (alto
sax, bass clarinet) is listed ahead of Stowe, the rest: Daniel
Barbiero (bass), Alan Munshower (drums), Lee Pembleton (sound).
- The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live
(2014, Driff): Six-piece group dedicated to exploring Steve Lacy's
slippery music take their act to Italy after two superb studio albums.
All recognizable names: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis
Karayorgis (piano), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola),
Jason Roebke (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Slips a bit here and
there, but many strong passages.
- Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (2014, Driff):
Boston-based pianist with a mostly local live in Chicago group -- Dave
Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone saxes), Keefe Jacckson (tenor sax, bass
clarinet), Nate McBride (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). It's almost
too much to work with, as the patches where the horns drop out reveal.
- Bolt: Shuffle (2013 , Driff): Avant quartet --
Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon, analog electronics), Eric Hofbauer
(guitar), Junko Fujiwara (cello), Eric Rosenthal (drums, percussion) --
offers scratchy little miniatures -- 19 that they recommend you shuffle --
too impolite and eccentric for chamber jazz, uprooting expectations.
- Anna Webber: Simple (2013 , Skirl): Canadian
flutist, mostly plays tenor sax here, second album, trio with Matt
Mitchell (piano) and John Hollenbeck (drums) doing much to stretch
and skew the album. Best when all three thrash, but has a few spots
when nothing much seems to be happening.
- Phil Haynes: No Fast Food: In Concert (2012 ,
Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): Drummer, coming off a very good duo record
with trumpeter Paul Smoker, collects a couple of trio concerts with
David Liebman (more tenor than soprano sax) and Drew Gress (bass).
- Cortex: Live! (2014, Clean Feed): Norwegian avant
jazz quartet patterned on Ornette Coleman's classic, two previous
albums but no one I've heard of: Thomas Johansson (cornet), Kristoffer
Alberts (reeds), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums). I have a
nagging doubt that anyone so inspired could do this: rather than
breaking rules and blazing new paths the sax-cornet interplay just
seems so right, although it wouldn't without a lot of innovation
that now seems so normal.
- Marc Ribot Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard
(2012 , Pi): A guitarist with many fronts, this live trio
with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor returns to the roots of one of
his best albums, 2005's Spiritual Unity, with two more
Ayler covers, two late Coltranes, and two standards beat and
bent into shape.
- Larry Fuller (2013-14 , Capri): Mainstream
pianist, started out working with singer Ernestine Anderson, has
also appeared in Jeff Hamilton Trio and with John Pizzarelli. Second
trio album, all standards -- "Both Sides Now" counts, but it's "C
Jam Blues" and "That Old Devil Moon" that always get my attention.
- Richard Galliano: Sentimentale (2014, Resonance):
French accordion player, has recorded a lot since 1990, building
on the folk roots of his instrument, delving into tango and film
scores, always working in the jazz tradition -- draws on Ellington
and Coltrane here, Horace Silver too. With Tamir Hendelman's piano
and Anthony Wilson's guitar this risks becoming overly lush, but
that's sentimentalism for you.
- Tim Sparks: Chasin' the Boogie (2013 , Tonewood):
Guitar player, I file him under klezmer since many of his early albums
focused on Jewish folk music -- Little Princess: Tim Sparks Plays
Naftule Brandwein (2009) is one I'm particularly fond of -- but he
starts out closer to the fingerpicking style of John Fahey. Doesn't
chase the boogie very hard here, but everything here is very pleasant
as background and intricate enough to engage you. The closing "Blue
Bayou" is especially lovely.
- Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger: Reverie (2014, Leo):
Berger plays piano here, his original instrument although he is
better known for vibes, in a long career that puts him well into
his 70s now. He does a lovely job of setting up -- interviewing
is the word that comes to mind -- the Brazilian avant-saxophonist,
who pours emotion into his leads.
- Don Pullen: Richard's Tune (1975 , Sackville/Delmark):
The pianist's first name album, a solo cut on the road in Canada and
originally released as Solo Piano Album, now named for its first
song, one dedicated to Muhal Richard Abrams -- a good hint if you want
to locate him, but he already has more rhythmic muscle even if his fully
developed style was still a few years away.
- Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories (1965 ,
Resonance, 2CD): Early, these two previously unreleased sets came
on the heels of Lloyd's auspicious debut, Of Course, Of Course,
retaining guitarist Gabor Szabo (also just breaking in) and bassist
Ron Carter, replacing Tony Williams with Pete La Roca, and before
Lloyd's more popular albums on Atlantic. Interesting parallels here
both to Rollins and Coltrane, although Lloyd had a softer tone and
integrates better with his group -- Szabo is terrific throughout.
Both sets include a stretch on flute, very much in character.
- Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms: From the Region (2013
, Delmark): Vibraphonist, has made a big splash since starting
to work with Chicago avant groups a few years back. Trio with bass
(Ingebrigt Håker Flaten) and drums (Mike Reed), third album together
(starting with the one called Sun Rooms, natch), and goes a
long ways toward establishing the vibraphone a lead instrument.
- Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (2012
, TUM, 2CD): Trumpet great, has been working on large canvases
lately -- I count four 2CD releases since 2009 plus the 4CD Ten
Freedom Summers -- but this feels rather small and spotty as
it spurts and sputters, just one more horn (Julius Hemphill (alto
sax, flute, bass flute) plus bass (John Lindberg) and drums (Jack
DeJohnette). It does, however, remind me what a marvelous drummer
- Kalle Kalima & K-18: Buñuel de Jour (2013
, TUM): Finnish guitarist, quartet adds Mikko Innanen (alto
sax), Veil Kujala (quarter-tone accordion), and Teppo Hauta-aho
(bass, percussion). The lead instruments tend to melt together
into a thick, richly flavored stew.
- The Mark Lomax Trio: Isis & Osiris (2012 ,
Inarhyme): Drummer, teaches and therefore is based in Columbus, Ohio,
which keeps him and his sax trio out of the limelight. They have a
previous album, The State of Black America, on my top-ten
list for 2010. This one drags a bit near the start -- probably bass
solos, something too soft to hear -- but when Edwin Bayard's tenor
sax breaks through it's often mesmerizing. And the drummer's pretty
- Alexander McCabe/Paul Odeh: This Is Not a Pipe (2014,
Wamco): Alto sax/piano duets. McCabe has impressed me in the past (cf.
2010's Quiz), and continues to in this sparer format.
- William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas: Live at the Vilnius Jazz
Festival (2013 , NoBusiness): Sax-drums duets, the drummer
getting top billing because he's the best known or came the furthest or
maybe it's just alphabetical. Mockunas, at home in Lithuania, plays
soprano, alto, and tenor, and is consistently impressive on four long
- Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast: Settle (2012 , NCM East):
Leader plays bass clarinet and alto sax, in a quintet with Russ Johnson
on trumpet and Nir Felder on guitar -- front-line musicians who can
handle the whiplash speed changes.
- Gianni Lenoci/Kent Carter/Bill Elgart: Plaything (2012
, NoBusiness): Piano trio. Pianist Lenoci, who credits Mal Waldron
and Paul Bley as teachers and plays much like them, has at least 15 albums
since 1991. A spirited improv set.
- Rashied Al Akbar/Muhammad Ali/Earl Cross/Idris Ackamoor: Ascent
of the Nether Creatures (1980 , NoBusiness): Cross was a
trumpet player from St. Louis (1933-87), played in bands led by Charles
Tyler and Rashied Ali, but this is the only album Discogs lists by him.
Saxophonist Ackamoor was originally Bruce Baker, b. 1950 in Chicago, has
a bit more, including a foundation in San Francisco. Don't know anything
about bassist Al Akbar. Drummer Ali, b. Raymond Patterson in 1936, is
Rashied Ali's brother, has a 1974 duo album with Frank Wright, and has
appeared on some of David S. Ware's last albums. So, a two-horn free
jazz quartet of some vintage, recorded in the Netherlands and reissued
in Lithuania in limited edition (300 copies) vinyl.
- The Buddy Tate Quartet: Texas Tenor (1978 ,
Sackville/Delmark): From Sherman, Texas; played in territory bands
until 1939 when he joined Count Basie, replacing the late Herschel
Evans. My favorite album of his is Buck and Buddy Swing the
Blues -- "Buck" of course is Basie bandmate, trumpeter Buck
Clayton, and the title is exactly right. This set was originally
released as The Buddy Tate Quartet as if the group was
somehow more than something he picked up touring. They scarcely
deserve the compliment, but every time the sax blows Tate is
nothing short of resplendent.
- Daniel Blacksberg Trio: Perilous Architecture (2012
, NoBusiness): Trombonist, based in Philadelphia, background
ranges from klezmer to Anthony Braxton. Backed with bass and drums,
keeps it interesting.
- The Evergreen Classic Jazz Band: Early Tunes 1915-1932
(1995, Delmark): Trad jazz band from Seattle, eight pieces (at
least at this point -- a 1990 album had six) including banjo and tuba
(Tom Jacobus, the designated leader). Trombonist David Loomis sings a
couple songs, and the clarinet (Craig Flory) is exceptional. Admittedly,
I'm a sucker for this kind of music.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: The Russian
Concerts Volume 2 (2013 , FMR): Alto sax, drums, piano,
respectively -- the first two close collaborators from Quebec going
back to the 1990s, the pianist joining them on five albums now. This
one is a shade less consistent and/or impressive than Volume 1
(came out earlier this year).
- Lajos Dudas Trio: Live at Porgy & Bess (2009 ,
Jazz Sick): Back cover says "20 Years of Lajos with Philipp, 1993-2013 /
The Jubilee CD" but all of this comes from a single date in Vienna, with
Philipp van Endert on guitar and Leonard Jones on bass. Four originals,
two pieces from Attila Zoller, standards from Monk, Gershwin, and Porter.
- Lajos Dudas Quartet: Live at Salzburger Jazzherbst
(2012 , Jazz Sick): Clarinetist, b. 1941 in Budapest, Hungary,
studied at conservatories named for Béla Bartók and Franz Liszt,
long based in Germany. Quartet features longtime collaborator Philipp
van Endert on guitar, plus Kurt Billker on drums and Jochen Büttner
on percussion. Slow start but ultimately quite lovely, some tasty
guitar, and the rhythm helps.
- Ezra Weiss Sextet: Before You Know It: Live in Portland
(2013 , Roark): Pianist, based in Portland, sixth album since
2003, including some "children's musicals" I've neglected and The
Shirley Horn Suite (which I rather liked). What lifts this above
the postbop norm is some growl and fury in the horns (Farnell Newton
on trumpet, John Nastos on alto sax, Devin Phillips on tenor). And
after they warm up the joint, he closes with a really lovely ballad.
- Chris Dundas: Oslo Odyssey (2014, BLM, 2CD): Pianist,
from Los Angeles, one previous album back in 2000, picks up a band in
Norway with bassist Arild Andersen, Patrice Heral on drums, and Bendik
Hofseth on tenor sax, and runs on for 1:44:21. The Dundas-composed
first disc opens up gracefully for the sax. The improvised second
takes a bit longer to find its metier.
- Touch and Go Sextet: Live at the Novara Jazz Festival
(2012 , Nine Winds): Four horns -- Aaron Bennett (tenor/baritone
sax), Sheldon Brown (alto sax, bass clarinet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet),
Darren Johnston (trumpet) -- provide a wide range of intriguing leads,
while Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Vijay Anderson (drums) stir the pot.
- Alessandro Collina/Rodolfo Cervetto/Marc Peillon/Fabrizio Bosso:
Michel on Air (2014, ITI): "Michel" is pianist Michel
Petrucciani, who wrote all but two of eleven pieces -- the covers
are from Ellington ("In a Sentimental Mood") and Strayhorn ("Take
the 'A' Train"). Piano, drums, bass, and trumpet respectively --
the trumpet grabbing you from the start, piano sneaking up.
- Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1: The Rite of
Spring (2014, Creative Nation Music): I must have heard
Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps at some point, but
I wouldn't bet on it. As best I recall, Charlie Parker was a fan,
and Teddy Adorno wasn't. I certainly haven't heard the recent Bad
Plus version, but even if you credit Iverson's super powers, the
horns -- trumpet and clarinet -- give this version an edge in
firepower, and it's hard to imagine dispensing with the leader's
guitar (reinforced by cello).
- Delfeayo Marsalis: The Last Southern Gentlemen (2014,
Troubadour Jass): The trombonist in the family band, younger than
Branford and Wynton and less prolific, only a half-dozen albums since
1992. My eyes preclude me from slogging through the liner notes,
which I expect to be interesting. The music, however, is painless:
mostly standards, the trombone backed by piano-bass-drums (Ellis
Marsalis, John Clayton, Smitty Smith), the leads somber and quite
- Greg Abate Quartet: Motif (2014, Whaling City Sound):
Saxophonist, plays alto/soprano/baritone here (plus some flute),
always seemed to look back to bebop as the golden age -- early
1990s albums include Bop City and Bop Lives!. Leads
a superb mainstream quartet with piano-bass-drums -- no one I've
heard of, but note Tim Ray the pianist. Fast, brilliant sound,
the rare mainstream album that jumps at you.
- Rex Richardson & Steve Wilson: Blue Shift (2014,
Summit): Wilson limits himself to alto sax here. He's well known,
both for his own albums, as an accompanist, and for his big band
work. Richardson is news to me: his discography includes big band
work (with Bill O'Connell) and classical music (a 2005 album is
subtitled New Virtuoso Trumpet Music by American Composers).
But he plays trumpet and flugelhorn with exceptional verve, and
nearly runs away with this album. Backed by guitar-bass-drums --
Trey Pollard has some nice spots on guitar.
- Tyshawn Sorey: Alloy (2014, Pi): Drummer, I first
noticed him with Vijay Iyer and he's been on most of Steve Lehman's
records. His debut album, 2007's What/Not was a sprawling
2CD affair with a long stretch of piano -- as I recall, Francis
Davis ranked it number two that year but the publicist snubbed me,
deciding I wouldn't take it as seriously as it deserved. (Found it
on Rhapsody and gave it an A-, not that you should take that as a
serious review.) This returns to his piano compositions, a trio
with Corey Smythe on piano and Christopher Tordini on bass. Mostly
ambles aleatorically, although there is one stretch where they
find a beat and some intensity -- I'm a sucker for that.
- Marlene VerPlanck: I Give Up, I'm in Love (2014,
Audiophile): A "songbird," as the liner notes put it, b. 1933 in
Newark as Marlene Pampinella -- she was married to arranger Billy
VerPlanck for 52 years, until his death in 2009. No date on when
this was recorded, but nothing suggests it isn't recent, other
than that she looks and sounds so great. Standards, some with
the Glenn Franke Big Band for that brassy Sinatra-ish feel, the
rest with intimate groups highlighted by Warren Vaché or Harry
Allen. I should delve into her back catalog some time, but I'd
be surprised to find better albums than this one.
- Sam Newsome: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation
[The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2] (2014, self-released): Soprano
sax, went solo on Vol. 1 but usually adds percussion here with
these African and African-inspired melodies, including the three-part
"Microtonal Nubian Horn" experiment and one called "Good Gooly Miss
- Michael Denhoff/Ulrich Phillipp/Jörg Fischer: Trio Improvisations
for Campanula, Bass and Percussion (2014, Sporeprint, 2CD):
Denhoff composed the pieces. His campanula is a bowed string instrument,
similar in size to a cello but with extra tunable strings to provide
more resonant harmonies. Effectively, the campanula melts into the bass,
extending its range and complexity.
- Peter Zak Trio: The Disciple (2013 ,
SteepleChase): Pianist, has a dozen albums since 1989, in a trio
with Peter Washington on bass and Willie Jones III on drums.
Three originals, seven covers, the latter all notable pianists
(well, I'm not so sure of this Alexander Scriabin character),
with Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk the standouts.
- Michel Lambert: Journal des Épisodes II (1992-2014
, Jazz From Rant): Ninety-seven short fragments of music (total
44:17) tied to a journal written in 1988. It does feel so fragmentary,
even with bits of WSO string quartet (from 1992) interleaved into the
more recent Guillaume Bouchard-Alexandre Grogg piano trio.
- Luis Lopes Lisbon Berlin Trio: The Line (2014,
Clean Feed): Portuguese electric guitarist, one of the most distinctive
anywhere -- seems like he plays his feedback as much as the guitar
itself -- with German bassist (Robert Landfermann) and drummer
- Grünen [Achim Kaufmann/Robert Landfermann/Christian Lillinger]:
Pith & Twig (2012-13 , Clean Feed): Piano trio,
same bass-drums as Luis Lopes' Berlin connection but you get a better
sense of how they flex here. The pianist, also German, bobs and weaves
in and out as well.
- Velkro: Don't Wait for the Revolution (2012 ,
Clean Feed): European jazz trio, with Bostjan Simon (sax -- Slovenia),
Stephan Meidell (guitar, bass -- Norway), and Luis Candeias (drums --
Portugal). So much propulsion here that any lapses in the groove or
bursts of noise wash away, leaving you with a layered weave of tone.
I wouldn't call this avant-garde, much less postbop, and certainly
not fusion, but might not object to post-Velvets, if you know what
- Ted Daniel's Energy Module: Interconnection (1975 ,
NoBusiness, 2CD): Trumpet player, associated with New York's avant "loft
scene" but recorded little -- later coming to my attention on Billy Bang's
Vietnam records. But this is a find, a prime example of the era's
avant-garde, with two energetic saxophonists (Daniel Carter and Oliver
Lake), and relative unknowns holding their own at bass and drums.
- Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha (2009 ,
NoBusiness): I wouldn't hold much hope for violin-bass duos,
but we're talking two all-time jazz greats here, and both have a
tendency toward hearts-on-sleeve. Bang died in 2011, a huge loss,
and I count this as his fourth posthumous release: a duo with Bill
Cole didn't offer much, but the two group albums on TUM were superb.
So is this.
- Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point (2013 ,
NoBusiness): Piano-trombone duets, the former a revered master who
doesn't get out much, the latter probably the top avant-oriented
trombonist around, exceptional here in how he fills out the melody.
- Roil [Chris Abrahams/Mike Majkowski/James Waples]: Raft of
the Meadows (2013-14 , NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums
trio. Abrahams, originally from New Zealand and based in Sydney, has
tended to work in groups including the Necks (another piano trio),
but Discogs lists 17 records (since 1985) under his name.
- Tony Malaby's Tubacello: Scorpion Eater (2013 ,
Clean Feed): As advertised, a sax quartet with a tuba (Dan Peck) and
a cello (Christopher Hoffman) splitting the bass role. John Hollenbeck
is the drummer. Marvelous in spots, again as you'd expect.
- Juan Pablo Carletti/Tony Malaby/Christopher Hoffman:
Niño/Brujo (2013 , NoBusiness): Drums, tenor sax,
cello, respectively, with Carletti writing the songs, and Malaby
articulating them wonderfully.
- Zanussi 5: Live in Coimbra (2013 , Clean Feed):
Bassist from Norway (father Italian), leads a quintet with three saxes --
Kjetil Møster (tenor/soprano), Jørgen Mathisen (tenor), Erik Hegdal
(baritone), all doubling on clarinet -- and drums. Propulsive grooves
set up sax wails, with the bari for deep muscle.
- Duduvudu: The Gospel According to Dudu Pukwana (2014,
Edgetone): Dudu Pukwana (1938-90) was an alto saxophonist from
South Africa, played with Chris McGregor's integrated Blue Notes
before and after exile. Straddling avant-jazz and South African
folk/pop, he sometimes fell down on either side, but his 1973 album
In the Townships (reissued on Earthworks in 1990) is the
jazz take of township jive -- a great album and a longtime personal
favorite. I'm having trouble sorting out the credits, and only the
initial November 2009 date is given. As far as I can tell, there were
at least three sessions (one in London and two in California) with
little overlap and no clear idea who's driving the project -- the
only names I recognize are Harry Beckett (the late trumpet player,
from Trinidad but loosely associated with Pukwana), Pierre Dørge
(guitarist-bandleader, a protege of Blue Notes bassist Johnny Dyani),
and Wayne Wallace (Bay Area trombonist). Still, the music fits and
flows, the waves of township jive larger than ever.
- Jonas Kullhammar: Gentlemen (2014, Moserobie):
Swedish saxophonist (credit order here: tenor, baritone, bass,
stritch, saxello). I've only heard his more avant work on Clean
Feed until now, so I was surprised to find this starting out so
mainstream, then delighted to hear him stretch out. Four tracks
add a second tenor sax, the justly renowned Bernt Rosengren.
Last four tracks (Rosengren is on one of them) add Goran Kajfes
on cornet and Mattias Ståhl on vibes. Reportedly a soundtrack,
but no hint of that genre's usual flaws.
- Eugene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble: Celebrations
(2010, MEII Enterprises): Subtitle "interprets festive melodies
from the Hebraic songbook," so not our usual Xmas album, but it
does start with "Chanukah, O Chanukah." Pianist Marlow is a New
York Jew who specializes in Afro-Cuban/salsa/bossa nova and his
group spreads out the ethnic polyculture, including the marvelous
Michael Hashim on sax. Ends with a 6:37 lecture on philosophy
that bears repeating.
- Peter Brötzmann/John Edwards/Steve Noble: Soul Food
Available (2013 , Clean Feed): Avant-sax trio,
part of the label's "live in Ljubljana" concession, may seem
like old hat given that Brötzmann has been bringing the same
noise for nearly fifty years, but he's not as harsh as way
back when, and the rhythm section is tuned in.
- Fiorenzo Bodrato: Travelling Without Moving (2012
, CMC): Italian bassist, from Turin, website shows five records
but not this one. Spoken word vocals, including poems from Borges
and Dryden, and something original by Ciro Buttari, impress like
hip-hop, while the instrumental wind-down is rather sublime.
- George Van Eps: Once in Awhile (1946-49 ,
Delmark): A legendary jazz guitarist (1913-98), influenced by Eddie
Lang, worked with Benny Goodman and Ray Noble in the 1930s, didn't
record much until Concord picked him up in the 1980s his protégé
Howard Alden started recording with him. These radio shots fill a
gap, and also spotlight two forgotten musicians, boogie pianist
Stanley Wrightsman and tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller.
- Adam Pieronczyk Quartet: A-Trane Nights (2008-09
, Fortune): Same group as on El Buscador, with bassist
Anthony Cox evidently a regular. Drummer Dziedzic maintains his
Latin tinge, and trombonist Mears takes more leads than the leader --
he's clearly on a roll here. Main gripe is that the documentation
shows two discs but the promo only includes "cd 1."
- Ksawery Wojcinski: The Soul (2013 , Fortune):
Polish bassist, also credited here with piano, guitar, percussion,
and vocals -- i.e., everything. That helps explain why the album
shifts feel so often, although the thick, dark bass leads seem most
fundamental. Ends on a gorgeous note with a short gospel chorus of
"Hold On Just a Little While Longer."
- Waclaw Zimpel To Tu Orchestra: Nature Moves (2014,
Fortune): Clarinetist, b. 1983, one of the more recognizable names
in Polish jazz due to his frequent collaborations with Vandermark's
circle. Nine-piece group, doubling up on bass and drums. The 28:44
opener, "Cycles," stretches a repeating piano figure into something
hipnotically sublime, and the title suite adds new wrinkles to the
formula. And when free jazz breaks out, Zimpel ties that energy into
yet another pattern, raising his whole game to another level.
- Tom Trio: Radical Moves (2013 , Fortune):
Trumpet player Tomasz Dabrowski, a name I've run across before,
backed with bass (Nils Bo Davidsen) and drums (Anders Mogensen).
- Leszek Kulakowski Ensemble: Looking Ahead (2014,
Fortune): Pianist, discography goes back at least to 1994, with a
jazz orientation but close to classical -- Chopin for jazz trio
and orchestra, string quartets, a "Piano Concerto," things that
translate as "Cantabile in G Minor" and "In the Chamber Komeda
Mood," etc. This is a sextet with trumpet and sax, also cello.
Richly textured, a first-rate composer -- evidence, I think,
that post-classical has moved on to jazz, even though not all
jazz is post-classical.
- Linda Sharrock: No Is No: Don't Fuck Around With Your Women
(2014, Improvising Beings, 2CD): Born Linda Chambers, 1947, sang in church
and gravitated toward avant jazz in the 1960s, marrying guitarist Sonny
Sharrock in 1966, singing notably on the 1969 album Black Woman
and their jointly credited 1975 album Paradise. She divorced him
in 1978 and he died in 1994. She has recorded occasionally on her own
since 1991, so her return here is a pleasant surprise. The band --Itaru
Oki (trumpet), Mario Rechtern (reeds), Eric Zinman (piano), Makoto Sato
(bass), Yoram Rosilio (drums) -- offers a spirited reminder of the avant
'60s. The vocals are less clear and coherent, but the title has a point.
- Akua Dixon: Akua Dixon (2014 , Akua's Music):
Cellist, b. 1948, was married to Steve Turre 1978-2012, has a few
scattered credits (some as Akua Dixon-Turre) but as far as I can
tell this is her first album. Several violinists, including Regina
Carter, rotate through the lead slot, supported by cello, sometimes
bass, only once drums. All covers, including "Haitian Fight Song,"
"Besame Mucho," "Poinciana," pieces from Cachao and Piazzolla, with
a couple vocals -- Andromeda Turre on "Lush Life,", the leader on
"It Never Entered My Mind."
- Lucien Johnson/Alan Silva/Makoto Soto: Stinging Nettles
(2006 , Improvising Beings): Tenor sax-bass-drums trio, the
leader from New Zealand -- seems to be his first album, but he was
the main composer in a group called Shogun Orchestra (eponymous
album 2012). Silva's well known in free jazz circles. I squinted
through enough of the microprinted liner notes to find out that
Soto is some sort of Don Cherry protégé. Basically what you want
in this configuration: a high energy charge, but the saxophonist
can also slow it down and keep your attention.
- François Tusques/Mirtha Pozzi/Pablo Cueco: Le Fond de L'Air
(2014, Improvising Beings): Piano trio (of sorts): no bass but Tusques
plays piano and the others percussion. Or I suppose you could call it
a percussion trio.
- Herb Geller/Roberto Magris: An Evening With Herb Geller &
the Roberto Magris Trio: Live in Europe 2009 (2009 , JMood):
The alto saxophonist was one of the major figures in the "west coast
cool jazz" from the mid-1950s until his death in 2013 at 85. I don't
know how late he played -- this is the latest I've found, but he's in
very good form, and the piano trio provides perfectly sound support.
- Red Garland Trio: Swingin' on the Korner (1977 ,
Elemental Music, 2CD): A bebop pianist, recorded tons 1955-58 when he
was the center of Miles Davis' first great Quintet, leader of his own
Trio, and especially on the side with the Quintet's saxophonist, one
John Coltrane. He was so famous that when Art Pepper cut a record with
them, it was simply titled Meets the Rhythm Section. Like most
jazz musicians of his generation, Garland's discography tapers off
after 1962, although he picked up a bit in 1977 recording for Pepper's
label, Galaxy, then died in 1984. Still, I wouldn't have picked him as
someone we need to unearth more music by, but while I wouldn't say
these live trio sets reveal anything new, it's hard to exaggerate how
delightful they are. With Philly Joe Jones from his early trio, and
Leroy Vinnegar on bass (not Paul Chambers, but not a step down either).
- Charles McPherson: The Journey (2014 , Capri):
Alto saxophonist, back in the day a fairly shameless Charlie Parker
imitator -- his first album was 1964's Be-Bop Revisited --
who developed into an exquisite ballad player (his Beautiful!,
from 1975, spent a couple years in my bedtime rotation). Well into
his 70s, this one is his most upbeat in many years, with Keith Oxman's
tenor sax chasing him around, and Chip Stephens turning out his best
Bud Powell licks.
- Ballister: Worse for the Wear (2014 , Aerophonic):
Free sax trio led by Dave Rempis, with Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and
Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics -- sometimes he manages a
guitar-like sound -- instead of bass. The sax starts out with a menacing
growl, and there are stretches when the it all seems to click.
- Ted Kooshian: Clowns Will Be Arriving (2014 ,
Summit): Pianist, fourth album since 2004, for standards picks the
TV themes to "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Get Smart," for originals
writes tributes to various comic strip characters, plops a Napoleon
Murphy Brock vocal into the middle of the album, "Christmas Day, My
Favorite Day," and ends with "When You Wish Upon a Star." All rather
amusing, although for me the hook is Jeff Lederer's saxophone.
- Wolff & Clark: Expedition 2 (2014 , Random
Act): Pianist Michael Wolff and drummer Mike Clark, with either Christian
McBride or Daryl Johns on bass, five (of 12) cuts with Hailey Niswanger
on sax, two of those with Wallace Roney on trumpet. Wolff has about 15
albums since 1993, and wrote four songs here (one co-credited to Clark),
one called "Mulgrew." "Sunshine of Your Love" and "1999" are novel adds
to the standards songbook, mostly on the jazz side here -- Gillespie,
Heath, Coleman, two Monks, all delightful.
- Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord: Jeremiah (2014 ,
Hot Cup): Guitarist, has a handful of albums with this quintet -- Jon
Irabagon on soprano sax, Bryan Murray on tenor sax, Moppa Elliott on
bass, and Sam Monaghan on drums -- expanded here with Justin Wood on
alto sax and flute and Sam Kulik on trombone. Lundbom originals, aside
from two pieces with Wiccan origins. Best when it frees up and the
guitar chases all those horns around.
- Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Hat and Shoes
(2013 , Between the Lines): Prolific avant saxophonist (tenor,
bass clarinet), group name goes back to his 1995 album and passes
through his 2007 New Basement Research, a fair description
of a band rooted in the lower frequencies. Quintet: Julian Argüelles
(baritone sax), Steve Swell (trombone), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass),
Gerald Cleaver (drums).
- XY Quartet: XY (2013 , Nusica): Italian group,
sometimes you see it billed as "Fazzini Fedrigo XY Quartet," suggesting
that Nicola Fazzini (alto sax) and Alessandro Fedrigo (acoustic bass
guitar) are leaders, with Saverio Tasca (vibes) and Luca Colussi (drums)
something less. However, it's their percussion which keeps this group
on edge, even while the sax is what captivates.
- Chantale Gagné: The Left Side of the Moon (2014
, self-relased): Pianist, from Quebec, third album, all (but
one) original compositions. Mainstream postbop, but she picked out
the perfect band, with Steve Wilson (alto and soprano sax, flute)
floating and riffing, Peter Washington on bass, and Lewis Nash on
- Oliver Lake/William Parker: To Roy (2014 ,
Intakt): Dedicated to the late trumpet player Roy Campbell, who
otherwise seems to have little to do with proceedings -- except,
perhaps, for the somber tone. Or maybe that's just Parker's bass
taking charge, a fair match for Lake's voluble alto sax.
- Aki Takase/Ayumi Paul: Hotel Zauberberg (2014 ,
Intakt): Piano-violin duo, two Japanese-Germans, the pianist in her 60s,
well established on the avant-garde and the principal composer here,
drawing on Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg)
for inspiration; the violinist several decades younger, more classical,
sneaking in covers from Bach and Mozart.
- Jim Snidero: Main Street (2014 , Savant):
Mainstream alto saxophonist, twenty albums since 1987's Mixed
Bag, fabulous tone, speed, dexterity -- only thing he needs
is a rhythm section that keeps him at the top of his game. Like
this one: Fabian Almazan (piano), Linda Oh (bass), Rudy Royston
(drums). "The Streets of Laredo" closes strong.
- Denia Ridley & the Marc Devine Trio: Afterglow
(2014 , ITI Music): Standards singer, backed by Devine's piano
trio, a common formula, but she has a winning voice with just a touch
of Holiday, and the songs are dependable friends, front-loaded with
Gershwin and Porter, ending with "At Last" and "I Cried for You."
- Katie Thiroux: Introducing Katie Thiroux (2014 ,
BassKat): Bassist-singer's first album, composed three originals but
relies on standards, especially for lyrics. Jeff Hamilton produced,
using Graham Dechter's guitar instead of piano, adding Roger Neumann's
tenor sax for color and mood, both offering standout solos as well as
complementing the bass -- mixed up, it provides both signature and flow.
- Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: Awakening of a Capital
(2014 , RareNoise): Sax trio from Scotland, second album --
the first bore the aggrandizing title The Shape of Doomjazz to
Come/Saxophone Giganticus and was as audacious as the joke.
Sequel seems more modest, with Colin Stewart's fuzzy electric bass
riffs more prominent because Rebecca Sneddon's snarling alto sax
is less so -- or maybe just less snarling?
- John O'Gallagher Trio: The Honeycomb (2014 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto saxophonist, a guy who often stands out
in a crowd, up close here leading a trio with Johannes Weidenmueller
on bass and Mark Ferber on drums.
- John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty
(2012 , Origin): Stowell plays guitar. He cut a couple well
regarded albums in New York 1977-78, then moved to Portland and
mostly vanished until Origin picked him up in 1998. Zilber is a
saxophonist, just credited with "saxes" but pictured with a tenor
and something that looks like a curved soprano. The unnamed others
are John Shifflett (bass) and Jason Lewis (drums), and they each
contribute a song (Zilber wrote three, and they cover "My Funny
Valentine" and John Scofield's "Wabash III." Still, the sax makes
a strong impression, and whenever I notice the guitar Stowell is
doing something interesting.
- Mark Helias Open Loose: The Signal Maker (2014 ,
Intakt): I screwed up here, originally filing this under Tony Malaby,
the saxophonist whose name shows up first left-to-right mid-cover,
followed by bassist Helias and drummer Tom Rainey. But when I noticed
that Helias wrote all the pieces (with group help on three), I looked
a little closer and found the big (but not very distinct) type. Sax
trio, smolders ambitiously but never quite ignites.
- Anthony Braxton: Trio and Duet (1974 ,
Delmark/Sackville): Early work recorded in Toronto, originally released
on Sackville in Canada. The Trio cut is one of Braxton's diagrammatic
titles, running 19:08, with (not yet Wadada) Leo Smith on various trumpets
and percussion and Richard Teitelbaum on Moog and percussion -- one of
those tuneless abstractions that eventually become engaging. The other
side of the LP was a standards duo with bassist Dave Holland -- "The
Song Is You," "Embraceable You," "You Go to My Head" (all remarkable
readings), with two more added for the reissue ("I Remember You" adds
to the theme; "On Green Dolphin Street" doesn't).
- Schlippenbach Trio: Features (2013 , Intakt):
Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, saxophonist Evan Parker (just
tenor this time), and drummer Paul Lovens. I have no idea how many
records they've recorded together, but the trio goes back at least
to 1972 when they recorded Pakistani Pomade (FMP, reissued
by Atavistic in 2003), a "crown" record in the first edition of the
Morton-Cook Penguin Guide to Jazz (and since its reissue).
I should recheck that record (and whatever else I can find --
Discogs lists twelve Trio albums, and this is my fourth), but this
must be one of the most fully realized.
- The Susan Krebs Chamber Band: Simple Gifts (2014
, GreenGig Music): Jazz singer, fifth album; none of the songs
are originals but they're not really standards either -- title song
is Shaker traditional. Band credits: piano (co-producer Rich Eames),
woodwinds (Rob Lockhart), percussion, violin/viola -- the latter
adds a crucial weepy effect.
- Milford Graves & Bill Laswell: Space/Time · Redemption
(2013 , TUM): Graves is an avant-jazz drummer, first appearing on
a number of ESP-Disk records 1963-66 (including his own Percussion
Ensemble), then rarely from 1969 (Sonny Sharrock's Black Woman)
to about 2000, when he started appearing (mostly on Tzadik; 1992's Real
Deal, a duo with David Murray, was a rare exception). Laswell is a
bassist and producer, more into fusion than free but something of a gadfly
around the fringes of respectability. So not a huge surprise that the two
would record together, but it is that a bass-drums duo would come up with
anything so vibrantly textured.
- Paul Elwood: Nice Folks (2011 , Innova): Banjo
player, graduate of Wichita State University and SUNY Buffalo, teaches
in Colorado. Has a previous album called Stanley Kubrick's Mountain
Home, which AMG files under classical. This starts out like a folk
singalong, then takes off in various directions, including free jazz
and deep worldly groove. Calls his band the Invisible Ensemble. Only
one I've heard of is percussionist Famoudou Don Moye.
- Ab Baars Trio: Slate Blue (2014 , Wig):
Dutch tenor saxophonist (also plays clarinet and shakuhachi here),
in a trio with Wilbert De Joode (bass) and Martin Van Duynhoven
(drums) -- Baars' primary group dating back to 1990. A little
mellow as these things go, a mood that suits this group.
- Mikko Innanen: Song for a New Decade (2010-12 ,
TUM, 2CD): Finnish saxophonist, alto and baritone, plus a few odd
instruments here and there (Indian clarinet, Uilleann chanter, nose
flute, whistles, percussion). Should be better known, and after this
will be. Two discs: the first with William Parker on bass and Andrew
Cyrille on drums, pretty much everything an avant-saxophonist could
dream of; the second a little leaner, just a duo with Cyrille.
- Spin Marvel: Infolding (2014 , RareNoise):
British group somewhere in the experimental rock/jazztronica orbit --
Martin France (drums), Tim Harries (bass), Terje Evensen (electronics),
Emre Ramazanoglu (production and further drums) -- released an eponymous
album in 2006 (different drummer), back here with Nils Petter Molvaer
guesting on trumpet. Darker and harder than Molvaer's own records --
something else in the post-Miles underworld.
- Anat Cohen: Luminosa (2014 , Anzic): One of
the top clarinet players in jazz, also plays bass clarinet and tenor
sax here -- underrated in that more competitive category. Backed here
by piano trio (Jason Lindner, Joe Martin, Daniel Freedman -- with
guests periodically kicking the record into a Brazilian orientation:
percussionist Gilmar Gomes, guitarist Roberto Lubambo, most importantly
two cuts with Choro Aventuroso (accordion, 7-string guitar, pandeiro)
that kick this into a higher orbit.
- Open Field + Burton Greene: Flower Stalk (2012 ,
Cipsela): Greene's an avant-pianist, recorded a couple ESP albums in
the mid-1960s, has regained a limited measure of fame since 2000. He
adds notable bite to the Portuguese string trio -- João Carnões on
viola, Marcelo dos Reis on guitar, and José Miguel Pereira on double
bass. Viola has some bite, too, and guitar and piano are sometimes
- Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Epicenter (2013 ,
Clean Feed): Bassist, called his second album Bigmouth in
2003 and kept the name. Two tenor saxes (Tony Malaby and Chris
Cheek), Craig Taborn on keyboards (mostly Wurlitzer, in case you
need a refresher in why he wins those polls), and Gerald Cleaver
on drums. Lightcap's originals tend to be strongly pulsed. The
one cover is "All Tomorrow's Parties" -- simply magnificent.
- Myra Melford: Snowy Egret (2013 , Enja/Yellowbird):
On my short list for best jazz pianists since her debut in 1990, but
this quintet shortchanges her piano for her compositions, centered more
on Liberty Ellman's guitar and Stomu Takeishi's bass guitar. Ellman has
many fine moments, Ron Miles helps out on cornet, and Tyshawn Shorey is
a superb drummer.
- Ryan Truesdell: Lines of Color (2014 , Blue
Note/ArtistShare): Second album by Gil Evans' ghost band, following
2012's Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans --
some more new discoveries here, but it seems more accurate to think
of this as Gil Evans' Greatest Hits . . . Live! Arrangements
are properly credited to Evans, dated as far back as 1947. The band
has lots of star power, intricately shadowing one another while one
or another breaks out in precisely framed solos. Wendy Gilles sings
three tunes, including "Everything Happens to Me."
- Atomic: Lucidity (2014 , Jazzland): Norwegian
jazz group with more than a dozen albums since 2000, with a hard bop
quintet lineup that leans more toward avant -- horns (Magnus Broo on
trumpet and Fredrik Ljungkvist on tenor sax and clarinet) bristling,
piano (Håvard Wiik) complex and slightly ornate, the rhythm section
(Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass) usually a powerhouse although they
lose something here with a change at drums (Hans Hulboekmo replaces
- Hailey Niswanger: PDX Soul (2013-14 , Calmit
Productions): Young, blonde tenor saxophonist from Portland, second
album, goes full r&b in a couple live sets with a lot of help,
including three singers on four songs -- the bluesier the better.
While I can't quite describe what she does as honking, she does let
- John Fedchock Quartet: Live: Fluidity (2013 ,
Summit): Trombonist, best known for his New York Big Band recordings,
backed by piano-bass-drums here, makes a good case for trombone as
a lead instrument.
- Joe Fiedler Trio: I'm In (2015, Multiphonics Music):
First record I've reviewed this year that was actually recorded in
2015 (January 12), so I have to give up my early-year assumption
that undated recordings must have come from the previous year. Third
good trombone record this week (after Steve Turre and John Fedchock),
and easily the best. Rob Jost's bass rises above rhythm and harmony
for contrasting solos, Michael Sarin hits the right spots on drums,
and Fiedler runs rings around the competition.
- Curtis Nowosad: Dialectics (2014 , Cellar Live):
Drummer, second album, basic hard bop quintet lineup, with Derrick
Gardner the standout on trumpet, Jimmy Greene on tenor/soprano sax,
Steve Kirby on acoustic bass, and Will Bonness on piano. Liner notes
describe this as "straight-ahead jazz" then offer "neo-hard bop" as
an alternative. Certainly has fresh drive and sparkle within a proven
- Kaze: Uminari (2014 , Circum-Libra): Two trumpets
(Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura), piano (Satoko Fujii), and drums
(Peter Orins) -- second album under this group name, one of many groups
Tamura and Fujii have conjured up. Shock out of the gate, turning into
exceptionally invigorating avant-jazz, but later one runs into stretches
where not much seems to be happening, though if you dig deeper (or just
stay patient) it will.
- Andrew Bishop: De Profundis (2015, Envoi): Saxophonist,
teaches at University of Michigan, third album, a trio with Tim Flood
on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. His credits as listed here: flute,
clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor sax -- although I hear more
of the latter. All original pieces, six "reimagined" from "De Profundis"
by Josquin Des Prez (c. 1440-1521) -- transposed into free jazz.
- Dave Stryker: Messin' With Mister T (2014 ,
Strikezone): Mainstream guitarist, has about thirty albums since
1991 which may (or may not) include his long-running group with
saxophonist Steve Slagle. This one's a tribute to Stanley Turrentine,
with organ (Jared Gold), drums (McLenty Hunter), extra percussion
on half the tracks, and a parade of ten saxophonists, led off by
Houston Person and ending with Tivon Pennicott -- two generations
of Mr. T devotees. Class of the field: Chris Potter.
- Old Time Musketry: Drifter (2013 , NCM East):
Quartet: JP Schlegelmilch plays accordion and piano and writes most
of the pieces, Adam Schneit plays tenor sax and clarinet and wrote
two tunes, Phil Rowan is on bass and Max Goldman on drums/melodica.
The accordion gives the melodies a thick, robust texture, a popular
anchor no matter how everyone else twists and turns.
- Javier Vercher: Wish You Were Here (2014 ,
Musikoz): Tenor saxophonist, from Spain, imposing over a first-rate
rhythm section -- Lionel Loueke (guitar), Sam Yahel (piano), Larry
Grenadier (bass), and Francisco Mela (drums).
- Bradley Williams: Investigation (2014 , 21st
Century Entertainment, 2CD): Pianist, sings some, originally from Kansas,
played in one of Woody Herman's herds. This seems to be his first album,
one disc of swing-oriented instrumentals powered by a nine-piece band, a
second with vocals -- Williams but mostly the ladies, Jennifer Graham
and London McIlvane: "Solid Potato Salad," "Someone Else Is Steppin' In,"
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," "Use Me," some Jobim and Veloso,
"What a Little Moonlight Can Do." All but one of the instrumentals are
Williams originals; the ringer, Duke Ellington.
- Humphrey Lyttelton: Humphrey Lyttelton in Canada
(1983 , Sackville/Delmark): Trumpet player, a major figure in
Britain's trad jazz movement from the late 1940s. A much younger Jim
Galloway (baritone and soprano sax) joins him up front (including on
the cover), with Ed Bickert (guitar), Neil Swainson (bass), and Terry
Clarke (drums). Not really Lyttelton's prime, but a very strong outing
for Galloway, who (by the way) just died in 2014.
- Marty Grosz Meets the Fat Babies: Diga Diga Doo
(2013-14 , Delmark): The Fat Babies are a Chicago trad jazz
outfit with a couple fine albums if you can't get enough of that
old timey sound. Grosz, the son of the famous Weimar caricaturist,
fled the Nazis in the early 1930s and grew up on the first trad
jazz revival, learning guitar and banjo. He keeps the group loose,
and I won't complain that he talks too much toward the end, or
that he sings a couple. One of the two sessions adds Jim Dapogny,
another legend, on piano.
- Ernest Dawkins Live the Spirit Residency Big Band: Memory in
the Center: Homage to Nelson Mandela (2014 , Dawk):
Chicago saxophonist contents himself to be composer,
conductor, arranger and producer here, having lined up four other
saxophonists to carry the load, plus three trumpets, two trombones,
piano-bass-drums, poet Khari B, and singer Dee Alexander. I might
normally complain about the vocals (which can get operatic), but
the political rant is inspired, and the muscular exuberance of
the band sweeps you away. And when they work in a little township
jive, so much the better.
- Michael Oien: And Now (2014 , Fresh Sound New
Talent): Bassist-composer, first album, postbop quintet leads with
guitar (Matthew Stevens), layering the piano (Jamie Reynolds) and
alto sax (Nick Videen), adding an extra tenor sax (Travis Laplante)
on the third song for a high point. Three "Dreamer" parts follow,
where the bass comes back into focus.
- Oleg Frish: Duets With My American Idols (2014 ,
Time Out Media): Russian singer, entertainer, TV personality, member
of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, moved to New York in
1992, reputed to sing in 24 languages. American idols? Connie Francis
introduces, followed by Peggy March, Ben E. King, B.J. Thomas, Chris
Montez, Lainie Kazan, Tony Orlando, Melissa Manchester, Lou Christie,
Bobby Rydell ("Volare") -- it's hard to doubt a foreigner whose taste
in Americana runs to such kitsch.
- Ghost Train Orchestra: Hot Town (2013 ,
Accurate): Trumpeter Brian Carpenter's third dive into "music from
1920's Chicago and Harlem, with a group more postmodernist than
antiquarian: Dennis Lichtman, Andy Laster, and Petr Cancura on
reeds, Curtis Hasselbring on trombone, Cynthia Sayer on bajo,
Ron Caswell on tuba, and when they want to break out the train
sounds Colin Stetson drops in on bass sax. Mazz Swift's two
vocals aren't high points, but her violin adds something beyond
- Hu Vibrational: Presents the Epic Botanical Beat Suite
(2014 , MOD Technologies): A group of seven drummers, principally
Adam Rudolph, credited with "compositions and organic arrangements" --
the only other name I recognize is Brahim Fribgane, whose favored drum
is cajon (none of the seven use a trap set). The rhythm is as pleasant
as one could imagine, and "special guests" (most famously Eivind Aarset
on guitar and Bill Laswell on electric bass) add some tinsel.
- Harris Eisenstadt: Golden State II (2014 ,
Songlines):Drummer-composer, originally formed this as a sort of
chamber jazz group around his wife's bassoon (Sara Schoenbeck),
with Nicole Mitchell on flute and Mark Dresser on bass. Second
album was recorded live in Vancouver, with clarinet (Michael
Moore) instead of the flute.
- Michael Dees: The Dream I Dreamed (2014 ,
Jazzed Media): Classic crooner, has been hired to fill in where
Frank Sinatra was called for but unavailable (e.g., for HBO's The
Rat Pack documentary, and for a Simpsons episide. Past
70, but doesn't seem to have much recorded. Surprise here is that
he's doing all originals, while keeping the sound down pat. Mostly
backed by Terry Trotter's piano trio, with a little sax from Doug
Webb (aka Lisa Simpson).
- Mario Pavone: Blue Dialect (2014 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, has a couple dozen albums since 1982. This is a piano trio,
with Billy Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey, and it's lively, inventive, what
you'd hope for in a piano trio. Still, after four or five plays, this
never did more than impress me. I wondered if maybe it's that "problem"
I have with piano trios, but I looked it up and found I gave Pavone's
previous piano trio, 2013's Arc Trio, an A-. That one was with
Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver.
- Tony Adamo: Tony Adamo & the New York Crew (2015,
Urbanzone): Does something he calls "hipspokenword" -- a fast-paced
narration-commentary set against a fast swing rhythm, with trumpet
(Tim Ouimette) and alto sax (Donald Harrison) for accents and swirls.
You get a capsule history of several decades of jazz, plus some Pablo
- Rich Halley 4: Creating Structure (2014 , Pine
Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, has created an impressive
body of work since he retired from his day job. Quartet with Michael
Vlatkovich on trombone, Clyde Reed on bass, and son Carson Halley on
drums. His sax intro is as impressive as ever, and when the trombone
enters they bat things around at a furious pace. I wondered whether
the ending was too much -- reportedly this is all free improv,
by-product from another session -- but after many plays it fit
- Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants (1968 ,
Delmark/Sackville): Cornet player, came up in Eddie Condon's group,
his first recordings under his own name in 1943 for Commodore (cf.
The Commodore Master Takes, collected in 1997 by GRP and
highly recommended). Standard trad fare here, a sextet with Herb
Hall on clarinet, Benny Morton on trombone, and Claude Hopkins on
piano, his own tone towering and shining.
- Eli Wallace/Jon Arkin/Karl Evangelista: Cabbages, Captain,
& King (2014 , Edgetone): Cover just has title,
so a good case can be made for that as the group name, but I cribbed
the artist name off the hype sheet and prefer the extra information.
Besides, this is very much Wallace's album, all compositions his,
his piano much more prominent than Evangelista's guitar or Arkin's
drums. Eloquent, too, and develops some edge.
- Lorenzo Feliciati: Koi (2015, Rare Noise): Electric
bassist, sometimes fretless, also plays guitar, keyboards, and does
some programming here. Core group is a bass-keyb-drums trio, but
there's also a horn section and various guests. Fusion, but much
more going on.
- Joe Locke: Love Is a Pendulum (2014 , Motéma
Music): Vibraphonist, prolific since 1990, supplements his piano-bass-drums
quartet (Robert Rodriguez, Ricky Rodriguez, co-producer Terreon Gully)
with guests -- notably Rosario Giuliani on alto sax and Donny McCaslin
on tenor, but also bits of guitar and steel pans and a Theo Bleckmann
vocal -- for some sprightly and exceptionally complex postbop, most
interesting when the timing gets slippery.
- Elliott Sharp: Octal: Book Three (2013 , Clean
Feed): Solo guitar, third in this series but there must be dozens in
Sharp's vast catalogue. Manages both to coax unusual sounds from the
instrument and to marshall them in unexpected ways, but they feel like
sketches, almost as if he were presenting assignments for his I
Never Meta Guitar series colleagues to follow up on.
- Claire Ritter: Soho Solo (2014 , Zoning):
Solo piano, mostly original pieces plus one by Ran Blake and one
by Harold Arlen. Takes some time to settle in, but I particularly
liked her The Stream of Pearls Project (2011), so gave it
the extra spins.
- Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints
(2014 , Pi): Alto saxophonist, former M-Base impressario, comes up
with a 21-piece orchestra (counting vocalist Jen Shyu, fair because she
just blends in) that feels rather smaller, often playing a unison line
that rarely shakes the idiosyncratic beat. Remarkable stuff, although I'm
not that much of a fan.
- Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway: Table of Changes
(2013 , Intakt): Piano-drums duo, recorded live at various spots
in Europe. Third album by the Duo since 1992, although they go back
further to Anthony Braxton's famed 1980s Quartet (with Mark Dresser).
The knockabout opener is as remarkable as anything the format gets --
cf. Cecil Taylor and Irène Schweizer with various drummers -- and
while they don't sustain that intensity, they serve up plenty of
- The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cash and Carry (2014
, Aerophonic): Dave Rempis, first noticed on alto sax when he
replaced Mars Williams in the Vandermark 5, where he was so impressive
he started crowding Vandermark out of the tenor sax slot (plays some
impressive baritone here too). Fifth album by his two drummer (Tim
Daisy and Frank Rosaly) quartet, with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass.
Basically a blowing session, recorded live at the Hungry Brain in
Chicago -- what more could you ask for?
- Nisse Sandström Quintet: Live at Crescendo (2014
, Moserobie): Swedish tenor saxophonist, b. 1942, not as well
known as Bernt Rosengren but their 1984 album together was titled
Summit Meeting. Quintet includes a second tenor, the much
younger Jonas Kullhammar, an avant player with respect for his
elders -- his superb Gentlemen from last year included a
few cuts with Rosengren. Mainstream, a friendly pairing, reminds
me of those Al Cohn-Zoot Sims soirées.
- Art-i-facts: Great Performances From 40 Years of Jazz at
NEC (1973-2008 , New England Conservatory): A little
scattered, but they must have had tons of material to pick from,
so eclecticism is diplomacy. The lineup reads like a hall of fame
of jazz education -- George Russell, George Garzone, Gunther Schuller,
Bob Brookmeyer, Jimmy Giuffre, Steve Lacy, Rakalam Bob Moses, Ran
Blake -- with the fine print filled by students (probably some
famous names there too). Highlights include Garzone showing us
how to play Coltrane, and Schuller dredging up old ragtime.
- Dmitry Baevsky: Over and Out (2014 , Jazz Family):
Alto saxophonist, mainstream guy, from St. Petersburg in Russia, based
in New York, fourth album -- only other one I've heard was his second,
Down With It (2010), superb. Three originals, most of the rest
shows a jazz pedigree -- a Jobim, a Monk, two Ellingtons. Very facile
with a lovely tone, he continues to impress.
- Henry Threadgill Zooid: In for a Penny, In for a Pound
(2014 , Pi, 2CD): Album cover omits the leader's name, the
front a wordless portrait, as if the artist is such an icon he needs
no introduction. Four album with this group (more or less); Jose
Davila (trombone, tuba), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Christopher
Hoffman (cello), Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). Threadgill seems
to play less flute this time (or more bass flute), but it's the
alto sax you notice, rotating against Davila's low notes, the
strings swirling around. He called an earlier band Very Very Circus,
but he's rarely juggled this adroitly. Might have squeezed the music
onto a single disc (40:14, 38:58).
- Brian Landrus Trio: The Deep Below (2014 ,
BlueLand/Palmetto):Usually a baritone saxophonist, has at least
thre previous records, offers a tour of the deeper single reeds --
six cuts on bari, five on bass clarinet, two on bass flute, one
with bass sax. Lonnie Plaxico gets some bass spots too. Billy
Hart is the drummer on an album that is not only deep but softly
- Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House: Roulette of the Cradle
(2014 , Intakt): Tenor (and soprano) saxophonist, from Germany,
adopted this group name from a 2010 album, and you can see why she
wants to keep the group going: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris Davis
(piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums), joined on two
tracks by Oscar Noriega (clarinet). Davis and, especially, Halvorson
enjoy some remarkable runs here.
- Christoph Irniger Trio: Octopus (2014 , Intakt):
Once again, a mild-mannered free jazz tenor sax trio, impressive logic
that sneaks up on you without threatening to blow you away.
- Joan Chamorro & Andrea Motis: Feeling Good (2012
, Whaling City Sound): Motis is a 20-year-old singer -- 16 when
this was recorded -- from Spain
who plays up the cuteness in her voice and works her way one fine
standard after another -- "Lover Man" twice, once with strings and
one without. Charmorro plays bass and tenor sax, leading a band
that grows or shrinks almost unnoticeably. Motis also contributes
some trumpet and alto sax.
- The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble: Circulation: The Music
of Gary McFarland (2015, Planet Arts): McFarland (1933-71)
played vibraphone, but is probably best remembered (when at all)
as a composer and associate of Bill Evans and Bob Brookmeyer.
Drummer Michael Benedict directed this quintet, with Joe Locke
(vibes), Sharel Cassity (sax), Bruce Barth (piano), and Mike
Lawrence (bass), as they skip through eleven McFarland pieces.
Mostly breakneck bop, the leaders get a terrific workout --
most impressively Locke, his best performance in a long time.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Io (2013 , FMR):
Alto sax-drum duets, force the former to work harder which usually pays
off but leaves some rough edges.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Unknowable
(2014 , Not Two): Recorded live at Alchemia Jazz Klub in Krakow,
in most ways comparable to the alto saxophonist's many recent records,
with sidekick Lambert on drums, but Mazur's electric bass guitar rounds
out the sound, adding a resonance that is missing in the duo.
- Scott Hamilton: Scott Hamilton Plays Jule Styne
(2015, Blue Duchess): Tenor saxophonist, a retro-swing throwback
in the late '70s who's scarcely budged an inch since then, except
maybe to deepen his feel for ballads. Styne's tunes range from
"Sunday" in 1927 to "People" in 1964, a few you'll know instantly.
With Tim Ray on piano, Dave Zinno (bass) and Jim Gwin (drums),
plus a bit of guitar on one tune. Had I given this a casual spin,
I would have said "typically fine," but it's been stuck in my
changer for three days and I'll be sad when I have to move on.
- All Included: Satan in Plain Clothes (2014 ,
Clean Feed): Scandinavian freebop group, one I file under saxophonist
Martin Küchen's name because he organizes lots of groups like this,
but Thomas Johansson's trumpet and Mats Äleklint's trombone are every
bit as prominent, and the bass-drums of Jon Rune Strøm and Tollef
Østvang keeps it all roiling -- so, yeah, all included. Just not
sorted out as well as Küchen's Angles groups.
- Universal Indians w/Joe McPhee: Skullduggery (2014
, Clean Feed): Seems like McPhee will play with anyone, a
trait which has helped maked him such an inspiration to free jazz
musicians around the world. He plays pocket trumpet and various
saxes in this live recording from Belgium, with John Dikeman on
more saxes, Jon Rune Strøm on bass, and Tollef Østvang on drums
(the rhythm section from All Included).
- Ivo Perelman/Whit Dickey: Tenorhood (2014 ,
Leo): Tenor sax-drums duets, Dickey most often associated with
Matthew Shipp. Title tune plys five more dedicated to eminent
tenor saxophonists: Mobley, Webster, Coltrane, Ayler, Rollins.
A little schizzy around the edges, sort of a fractal effect.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Callas (2015, Leo, 2CD):
Tenor sax-piano duos, inspired by opera diva Maria Callas (1923-77),
not that there are any words here, nor vocals, just two avant-gardists
trying to recapture some imagined spirit. What they come up with is
- John Yao and His 17-Piece Instrument: Flip-Flop
(2014 , See Tao): Trombonist, big band arranger, his "17-piece
instrument" the band, and with musicians like saxophonists John
O'Gallagher and Jon Irabagon on not always of one mind.
- Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity: Firehouse (2014 ,
Clean Feed): Norwegian drummer, has played in several bands since 2007:
Puma, Bushman's Revenge, Lord Kelvin, Cortex (the latter's Live!
an A- last year), as well as collaborations with Eirik Hegdal, Tore
Brunborg, and Mathias Eick, but I'll score this as his first as leader:
an avant-sax trio with Andre Roligheten and Petter Eldh, and everything
you'd want there, blistering hot and completely cogent.
- Jerry Granelli Trio + 3: What I Hear Now (2014 ,
Addo): Drummer, started out in piano trios (Vince Guaraldi, Denny
Zeitlin), has close to 20 albums as leader since 1988, leaning some
towards fusion but broad ranging -- my favorite in the spoken word
Sandhills Reunion (2005) -- with this three sax, one trombone
sextet venturing deep into free jazz.
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: The Otherworld Cycle
(2014 , Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, one of the more consistently
interesting figures of recent years, assembles fourteen musicians for
"a new music Odyssey inspired by ancient Finnish mythology and the
Kalevala [a 19th century compilation of epic poetry from Karelian and
Finnish oral folklore]." The vocal concept seemed like too much clutter
at first, but that was forgotten least once the sinewy grooves kicked
in, and the sax approached A Love Supreme's stratosphere.
- Devin Gray: RelativE ResonancE (2014 , Skirl):
Drummer, second album, another sax-piano-bass-drums quartet but
with new collaborators: Chris Speed, Kris Davis, Chris Tordini.
Speed, typically, puts a soft edge on his sax, but Davis doesn't
pull any punches.
- Michael McNeill Trio: Flight (2014 , self-released):
Pianist from Buffalo, blew me away with his debut (Passageways)
and continues to impress, aided by Ken Filiano on bass and Phil Haynes
on drums. This is considerably more, uh, nuanced, building slowly,
repaying patient attention.
- OZO: A Kind of Zo (2015, Shhpuma/Clean Feed):
Portuguese duo, Paulo Mesquita on prepared piano, Pedro Oliveira
on prepared drums. The preparations aren't that extreme, and the
dynamic is simple enough: the piano sets up a rhythmic vamp, and
the drums kick it to another level.
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ichigo Ichie (2014
, Libra):Extremely prolific Japanese avant-pianist, she's
put together a half-dozen orchestras as she's traveled around the
world, and this is one of the best. Twelve-piece group, not quite
a big band but the three saxes and three trumpets are meant to solo
and spar, and the two drummers rumble.
- Satoko Fujii Tobira: Yamiyo Ni Karasu (2014 ,
Libra): Pianist-led quartet, with Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Todd
Nicholson (bass), and Takashi Itani (percussion). Gives you a good
sense of Fujii's avant-piano, although not at breakneck fury, and
adds some splashy trumpet.
- Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser: Projections (2014 ,
Clean Feed): Piano-bass duets. Nabatov was born in Russia, moved to
Rome, New York, and eventually to Köln, and has more than two dozen
albums since 1988 -- avant-garde with a classical grounding. Dresser,
of course, is one of the great bassists of our era, and reminds you
- Chico Freeman/Heiri Känzig: The Arrival (2014
, Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, made a big splash in avant
circles in the late 1970s; has recorded pretty regularly since
then, although in the 1980s it seemed like he got upstaged by
his father, Von Freeman. Bassist Känzig was born in New York
but studied in Austria and Switzerland, and currently teaches
in Luzern. Duets, very laid back, spare but gorgeous.
- Johannes Wallmann: The Town Musicians (2013 ,
Fresh Sounds New Talent): Pianist, fifth album, lively postbop on
the hard side; band includes Russ Johnson (trumpet), Gilad Hekselman
(guitar), Sean Conly (bass), and Jeff Hirshfield (drums), plus Dayna
Stephens (tenor sax) joins on two cuts. Over 75 minutes, everyone
makes a strong impression.
- Roots Magic: Hoodoo Blues & Roots Magic (2014
, Clean Feed): Group name not clear from the album cover, nor
is there much in the way of liner notes, but label is clear on the
point. Alberto Popolla (clarinets), Enrico DeFabritiis (alto sax),
Gianfranco Tedeschi (double bass), Fabrizio Spera (drums), plus
guest Luca Venitucci (organ, melodica, amplified zither). Can play
free but mostly prefer blues riffs.
- Nick Fraser: Too Many Continents (2015, Clean Feed):
Drummer, from Canada, has a couple previous records including 2013's
excellent Towns and Villages. This one is a trio with Tony
Malaby (tenor and soprano sax) and Kris Davis (piano). Too abstract
for anyone to work up a full head of steam, and Malaby's soprano is
shrill where his tenor is invigorating, but the twists and turns are
captivating, and Davis is worth the trouble.
- Amir ElSaffar: Crisis (2015, Pi): Trumpet player,
originally from Iraq, named his 2007 album Two Rivers and
calls his group Two Rivers Ensemble -- more appropriate than ever
as he figures out more ways to integrate Arabic motifs into his
music. The superb jazz rhythm section of Carlo DeRosa (bass) and
Nasheet Waits (drums) is matched by Tareq Abboushi (buzuqi) and
Zafer Tawil (oud, percussion), and ElSaffar sings three pieces.
Ole Mathisen's sax complements his trumpet, which has advanced to
a new plane.
- Robert Sabin: Humanity Part II (2014 , Ranula
Music): Bassist, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Gary Peacock. Third
record, originals except for the title piece by Morricone, arranged
for ten pieces -- five brass, two saxes, guitar-bass-drums.
- Louie Belogenis: Blue Buddha (2015, Tzadik): Tenor
saxophonist, credits go back to 1993 with groups God Is My Co-Pilot
and Prima Materia, but not much under his own name -- indeed, looked
like this was an eponymous group album until I found his name on the
spine, and I can't be sure of that. Quartet, with Dave Douglas on
trumpet, Bill Laswell on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.
- Mark Winkler: Jazz and Other Four Letter Words (2015,
Cafe Pacific): Jazz singer, has a dozen albums since 1985, writes most
of his own lyrics but draws on Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough for the
song that frames the album "I'm Hip" -- he ends with his own "Stay
Hip," so close it sounds like a reprise. Two songs are paeans to
beatnik-era jazz (title cut, which name drops no one after the '50s,
and "You Cat Plays Piano"). Two duets with Cheryl Bentyne, who is
- Paul Hubweber/Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Clayton
Thomas/Willi Kellers: Intricacies (2014 , NoBusiness):
Trombone, alto/soprano sax, piano, bass, drums, respectively, mostly
German. I had never heard of Hubweber before, but he seems to be a
fairly major figure in the German avant-garde: Discogs credits him
with 15 albums since 1998, but his Wikipedia page (in German) lists
37 albums going back to a solo, Aus meiner Sicht, in 1976.
Two long improvs (49:39 and 44:40) plus a 14:34 encore. Focus on the
pianist, who most likely you have heard of.
- Laszlo Gardony: Life in Real Time (2014 ,
Sunnyside): Pianist, originally from Hungary, has a dozen albums
since 1986, most trios but this time he unleashes the saxophones:
Don Braden, Bill Pierce, and Stan Strickland (all tenor, with
Strickland also playing bass clarinet), and they create all sorts
- The Dan Brubeck Quartet: Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of
Dave & Iola Brubeck (2013 , Blue Forest, 2CD): Five
of Dave & Iola Brubeck's six children became professional musicians,
Dan playing drums. Iola was a jazz lyricist before she married Dave in
1942, and they both lived together into their nineties, so there's
something especially sweet about this project, with its thick booklet
and many pictures. Dan's quartet is modelled on dad's, with Steve
Kaldestad on tenor sax, Tony Foster on piano, and Adam Thomas on bass --
Thomas also sings the lyrics that figure largely (although not
- Stefan Keune/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Fractions
(2013 , NoBusiness): German saxophonist, sopranino and tenor
here (alto elsewhere), ten or so albums since 1992, backed by bass
and drums. Free improv, fast and furious, although the sopranino
tends to be a bit squeaky.
- Nick Mazzarella Trio: Ultraviolet (2015, International
Anthem): Alto saxophonist from Chicago, with Anton Hatwich (bass) and
Frank Rosaly (drums), has several previous albums plus tenure in the
Chicago Reed Quartet.
- Mary Halvorson: Meltframe (2014 , Firehouse
12): Guitarist, one of several impressive musicians to study under
Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan, has been very prolific since 2005 --
AMG lists 20 albums, Discogs 19. This is solo, ten pieces written
by other jazz musicians, Ellington and (maybe) Coleman the only
standards. Shows off many of her favorite tricks, and when she
gets noisy and dissonant you don't miss anyone else.
- Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (2015,
Intakt): Piano-drum duo, both should be household names by now, and
indeed the Dutch percussionist is one of the very few Europeans to
make Downbeat Hall of Fame ballot. On the other hand, I've
had to write in the name of the Swiss pianist the last few years --
this year ahead of Myra Melford and Marilyn Crispell, who are
similar players only in the sense that anyone can be described as
similar to Cecil Taylor; Schweizer comes as close as anyone to
matching Taylor, but she can also work in some boogie woogie or
pennywhistle jive, and closes here with a bit of Monk that evokes
"Lullaby of Birdland." In the late 1980s Schweizer started a
series of duos with top avant drummers (Louis Moholo was the
first, followed by Gunter Sommer and Andrew Cyrille). The best
was her 1995 meeting with Bennink (although I also have the 1990
Pierre Favre at A). This return engagement belongs alongside.
- Beegie Adair/Don Aliquo: Too Marvelous for Words
(2015, Adair Music Group): Piano and tenor sax quartet from Nashville,
backed by Roger Spencer on bass and Chris Brown on drums. I hadn't
run into Adair before, but AMG credits her with 48 albums since 1997 --
admittedly a rather cheesy list with lots of standards and tributes,
piano music for special occasions (not just Xmas but Mother's Day),
a Cocktail Jazz Party and Beautiful Ballads. She goes
for standards here, especially Strayhorn with a dash of Monk. I am
familiar with Aliquo, a mainstream tenor who really shines on the
ballads. Perhaps too easy, but they earn their title.
- Merzbow/Balasz Pandi/Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Cuts of
Guilt/Cuts Deeper (2014 , Rare Noise, 2CD): Masama Akita
(aka Merzbow) is credited with "noise, power electronics." He has well
over 100 albums, and the only one I had heard before he started working
with this crew was one I hated so much I graded D+ -- Dharma
(2001, 2XHNI) if you're curious. Drummer Pandi and saxophonist
Gustafsson joined him on a tolerable 2003 album (Cuts: B --
so this title plays off that record). Gustafsson has always enjoyed
a long, hard squawkfest, and the famous Sonic Youth guitarist has
joined a few. All jointly-credited improv. Still, they don't overdo
it, and Pandi is terrific throughout.
- Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (2012 , Savant):
Tenor saxophonist, mainstream guy who uses phrases like Tenor
Talk and Simply Put for titles (to pick two records I
especially like). Quintet with Phil Grenadier (trumpet), Bruce
Barth (piano), his usual bassist and drummer, a hard bop set that
kicks out the jams.
- Barry Altschul & 3Dom Factor: Tales of the Unforeseen
(2014 , TUM): Drummer, achieved some prominence in the 1970s as
part of Anthony Braxton's quartet, faded away, finally appearing as a
venerable elder guest star on tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon's 2010
Foxy. Irabagon returned on Altschul's 2013 The 3Dom Factor,
and again here, although the focus here is more on the drums. Joe Fonda
helps out on bass.
- Liberty Ellman: Radiate (2014 , Pi): Guitarist,
fourth album since 1998, close to thirty side-credits (not counting
the mixing and mastering he's done on at least that many records).
Sextet, with three horns giving wide-ranging looks -- Jonathan Finlayson
(trumpet), Steve Lehman (alto sax), and Jose Davila (tuba, trombone) --
plus Stephan Crump (bass) and Damion Reid (drums).
- JD Allen: Graffiti (2015, Savant): Tenor saxophonist
from Detroit, has ten or so albums since 1999. Always an impressive
stylist, goes with a basic trio here -- Gregg August on bass, Rudy
Royston on drums -- which opens him up.
- Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Is a Jazz Reality Show (2015,
SMS Jazz): A clarinet player, Weiss retired from his day job around
2000 and returned to his instrument, recording seven albums 2003-13,
swing-bop I found charming and delightful. If anything, the records
got better as he approached 80. They even started getting noticed,
with Weiss emerging as a "Rising Star Clarinet" in Downbeat's
polls. Then I got a letter he was hanging it all up, but two years
later he's back. The "Dedication" explains a year of bad health,
losing his wife of forty-some years, even losing his dog, then
finding someone named "Donna." He also found pianist Don Friedman,
whose trio anchors these thirteen tunes, mostly indelible standards.
Everything works: the Carmela Rappozzo vocal slot, even his own
- Mike Reed's People Places & Things: A New Kind of Dance
(2015, 482 Music): Drummer, runs a couple of groups, this one rooted in
a golden age of local jazz, which in Chicago means Sun Ra and the AACM.
He aims for dance here, not so much dance rhythms as shots of euphoric
melody -- in his liner notes, he cites the late Ornette Coleman's
Dancing in Your Head. Quartet has two saxes (Greg Ward and Tim
Haldeman) plus bass (Jason Roebke), and Marquis Hill and Matthew Shipp
drop in for 3-4 tracks each. The kwela cinches it.
- Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed: Artifacts
(2015, 482 Music): Flute, cello, drums. It was clear from the very
beginning that Mitchell would be the poll-domineering flute player
of her generation, but less clear whether we should care. This,
however, is terrific on any terms. On the 50th anniversary of the
founding of the AACM, she's recorded their songbook -- the Mitchell
credit is Roscoe, sandwiched between Braxton and Fred Anderson,
with Abrams, McCall (twice), and Wilkerson to come. The cello fits
better than a bass would, and the drummer's studied this music all
- The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: 10 (2015,
Zoho): Trumpeter, from Peru, based in New York, celebrates ten years
since founding his sextet. One trad piece, jazz standards like "Caravan"
and "Lonely Woman" and "My Favorite Things" -- also a take of "Star
Spangled Banner" I don't mind too much.
- Ochion Jewell Quartet: Volk (2015, self-released):
Tenor saxophonist, based in New York, second album (as far as I can
tell), quartet includes bassist Sam Minaie and two-thirds of Dawn of
Midi: pianist Amino Belyamani and drummer Qasim Naqvi. The sax doesn't
blow me away, but the rhythm section is far from ordinary. Two tracks
add Lionel Loueke.
- Aram Shelton/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Frank Rosaly: Resounder
(2014 , Singlespeed Music): Alto sax-cello-drums trio, leader
also credited with "processing," while Lonberg-Holm adds guitar and
electronics -- his electronics have moved way beyond the hobby stage,
filling up the middle with a dense, prickly sonic framework, which
the others can only sharpen up or knick away at.
- Noah Preminger: Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (2015,
self-released): Tenor saxophonist, won the debut category in the
2008 Jazz Critics Poll, and has only gotten better. Live quartet
with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Kim Cass on bass, and Ian Froman
on drums -- names I didn't recognize and shouldn't forget. Two
30+ minute jams, an old-fashioned cutting contest.
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Mauch Chunk
(2015, Hot Cup): Some turnover in the lineup of bassist Moppa
Elliott's group as it moves into its second decade: Ron Stabinsky,
who joined the group when they attempted to clone Kind of Blue,
remains on piano, while Peter Evans (trumpet) is gone. The loss of
front-line fire power should hurt, but saxophonist Jon Irabagon goes
to Herculean lengths to make up the deficit. Not quite up to their
best albums of the past decade, but the bear on the cover reminds
me they don't have to outrun time, just the competition.
- Benoit Delbecq/Miles Perkin/Emile Biayenda: Ink
(2014 , Clean Feed): French pianist, twenty-some albums since
1992, this a trio with bass and drums. I'm struck especially by his
- Gonçalo Almeida/Martin van Duynhoven/Tobias Klein: Vibrate
in Sympathy (2015, Clean Feed): Credits should be reordered
to put Klein up front, making this a sax-bass-drums trio, all original
pieces by Klein, who is very clear-headed on alto sax, bass clarinet,
and contrabass clarinet.
- Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: The Puzzle (2015,
Whaling City Sound): The saxophonist has many groups, well over 100
albums, but this one almost deserves the pretentious name. Liebman
plays soprano and wooden recorder -- not something I've been all that
fond of in the past, but he mixes well with Matt Vashlishan (clarinet,
flute, alto sax, straw, EWI). Bobby Avey is a terrific pianist, and
Tony Marino and Alex Ritz are fine on bass and drums.
- Ulrich Gumpert Quartett: A New One (2014 ,
Intakt): Pianist-led sax quartet, with Jürg Wickihalder the saxophonist,
Jan Roder on bass and Michael Griener on drums. B. 1945 in Jena, Gumpert
grew up in East Berlin, interested in Satie and free jazz. From 1974 on,
he recorded several FMP albums with Günter Sommer, joined Conny Bauer's
Zentralquartett (still an important group), recorded a duo with Steve Lacy
in 1987 (and was later one of the pianists on Lacy's Five Facings).
- Joe McPhee/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs: Ticonderoga
(2014 , Clean Feed): Avant sax quartet, McPhee plays tenor (mostly)
and soprano and doesn't push it too hard. Saft plays piano, getting a bit
more brittle sound than on his usual electric keybs, and adding measurably
to the rhythmic complexity, which is not to say groove. Morris plays bass
here, and is superb. [PS: There is an alternate cover, shown on the label's
website, which suggests Saft is the leader. My copy lists the four names
in the credit order above. The spine only lists Ticonderoga, which the
label's website lists as the artist name.]
- Willem Breuker Kollektief: Angoulême 18 Mai 1980
(1980 , Fou, 2CD):Dutch group, led by the saxophonist from
the early 1970s until his death in 2010. Like ICP Orchestra (which
Breuker briefly played in), and for that matter the Sun Ra Arkestra,
Breuker was able to span the whole history of jazz up through the
avant-garde, frequently turning to hard swing, but in Breuker's
case also mixing in circus, folk, classical, and Brechtian art-song.
I've only heard ten (of fifty-some) Breuker records, and most I
rate between mixed blessings and downright nuissances, so as I was
falling for this one I noticed that my previous favorite was another
early (1975) live album. This could have been edited down into
something that flows better, but largesse was a big part of their
- Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (2012 ,
Not Two): Tenor saxophonist, from Portugal, should be considered a
major figure on the instrument. He is spectacular here, not that he
doesn't get help from Joe McPhee (pocket trumpet, alto sax) working
around his edges. With Kent Kessler on bass and Chris Corsano on
- Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live in Bern
(2014 , Capri): No relation, although drummer Jeff comes from a
famous jazz family, which put him in front of what otherwise might be
Tamir Hendelman's piano trio. I thought the pianist was a bit obtrusive
at first, but the second spin was all smooth sailing for the tenor.
- Rich Halley 4: Eleven (2014 , Pine Eagle):
Tenor saxophonist from Oregon, has had a terrific run of albums
lately, most with this same quartet: Michael Vlatkovich (trombone),
Clyde Reed (bass), and son Carson Halley (drums). When he takes
charge this is another one, but I have a few minor quibbles --
unison themes, slow patches.
- Marcelo dos Reis/Luis Vicente/Theo Ceccaldi/Valentin Ceccaldi:
Chamber 4 (2013 , FMR): Guitar, trumpet, violin/viola,
cello, two credited with voice although you can't exactly say they
sing -- it's more of a background effect, part of a montage which
despite the joint improv doesn't really move around that much.
- Sarah Buechi: Shadow Garden (2015, Intakt): Swiss
singer-songwriter, writes mostly in English, has several albums
including one previous one on Intakt with this same piano trio --
Stafan Aeby, André Pousaz, Lionel Friedli. The songs don't fall
into any tradition I recognize, but are strangely seductive.
- Caroline Davis Quartet: Doors: Chicago Storylines
(2013 , Ears & Eyes): Alto saxophonist, has a previous
album, based in New York but spent eight years in Chicago and
developed an interest in history there. She interviewed thirteen
Chicago jazz musicians and packed their reminiscences around her
original pieces -- Mike Allemann (guitar), Matt Ferguson (bass),
Jeremy Cunningham (drums). Lovely pieces, interesting raps.
- Matthew Shipp Trio: The Conduct of Jazz (2015,
Thirsty Ear): Piano trio, with Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor
Baker on drums. Shipp seems to have lost interest in his jazztronica
phase, but he draws on that experience when he breaks out the heavy,
tumbling rhythmic runs that set the pace here.
- João Camões/Jean-Marc Foussat/Claude Parle: Bien Mental
(2015, Fou): Viola (violon alto), electronics (dispositif
électro-acoustique), and accordion, respectively. Foussat has
been working along these lines for a while now, but this is the most
interesting sonic mix he has come up with yet.
- Martin Speicher/Peter Geisselbrecht/Jörg Fischer: Spicy
Unit (2014 , Spore Print): Reeds (alto/sopranino sax,
clarinet), piano, drums. Fischer has been sending his records in
regularly, mostly engaging avant encounters, but this is the first
one that really clicked -- mostly thanks to the pianist's own higher
order percussion. Never noticed Geisselbrecht before, but he makes
a huge impression here, which Speicher's coloring complements.
- Guus Janssen: Meeting Points (1989-2014 , Bimhuis):
Dutch avant pianist, has had a notable career with 1997's Zwik
a particular high point. This is previously unreleased material from
scattered groups, although six (of nine) tracks date from 2011 or
later. Two piano-drums duos, a duo with Lee Konitz, but the most
interesting are four small groups with Michael Moore (clarinet or
- Marco Mezquida Mateos: Live in Terrassa (2015, UnderPool):
Pianist, from Barcelona, has a couple previous albums
as Marco Mezquida. This is solo. The cover shows him from high
above at a grand piano, with no cover, surrounded on all sides
by rapt listeners in uncomfortable chairs, and the recording
feels that intimate. But what makes it work for me is the rhythmic
- Josh Berman Trio: A Dance and a Hop (2015, Delmark):
Cornet player from Chicago, third album, also appears in Michael Zerang's
group (below). This is a straight free-leaning trio with Jason Roebke
on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums mixing it up.
- John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at La
Resistenza (2014 , El Negocito): Dikeman plays alto
and tenor saxophone. He was born in Nebraska in 1983, grew up in
Wyoming, tried New York, then Cairo and Budapest before settling
into Amsterdam. A rather squawky free player, he has a group
called Cactus Truck that I've yet to be impressed by. This is a
standard free sax trio cut live in Ghent, Belgium -- the sort of
thing Parker and Drake could do in their sleep, but never do.
- Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden: Frictions/Frictions Now
(1969-71 , NoBusiness): Early free jazz quartet from the center
of West Germany, no one who later became famous although each of the
players has 5-10 other credits -- Michael Sell (trumpet), Dieter
Scherf (alto sax, oboe, piano, exotic flutes and such), Gerhard König
(guitar, flute), Wolfgang Schlick (drums). They cut two albums which
sound like they could have come much later, perhaps because Americans
don't appreciate how early a linkage was established between European
free jazz and "third world musics" -- perhaps because Europeans were
more conscious of their states' colonial legacies.
- Nancy Lane: Let Me Love You (2015, self-released):
Standards singer, first album. Mostly picks lesser-known songs,
including one in French, but there's also "Cry Me a River," "All
of You," and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Looks, and sounds,
a bit like Diana Krall. Don't know anyone in the band, but they
rotate seamlessly between piano and guitar backing, and several
trumpet and sax spots are well chosen.
- Martin Küchen/Johan Berthling/Steve Noble: Night in Europe
(2014 , NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio, the leader playing
tenor, alto, and sopranino, recorded live at Glenn Miller Café in
Stockholm. Küchen has mostly worked in larger groups like Angles
(also Exploding Customer, All Included, and Trespass Trio), so this
is a chance to hear him in a relatively informal improv bash.
- Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert by the Sea (1955
, Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): A fine pianist from Pittsburgh, fast
and idiosyncratically unique, he became a popular celebrity when his
1956 Concert by the Sea album went gold. Cut live in Carmel,
CA, heavily edited to 41:19 LP length, Garner led a trio with Eddie
Calhoun on bass and Denzil Best on drums, the album seemed to have
a magic lift. Sixty years later, the label has stretched it out,
offering the unedited concert, with 11 extra tunes on two discs,
plus a third disc remaster with a 14:10 post-concert interview.
It's all rather redundant, but I like the raw concert at least as
much as the tailored product -- indeed, I can't imagine how they
could have left "Caravan" off the latter.
- Giovanni Di Domenico/Peter Jacquemyn/Chris Corsano: A Little
Off the Top (2013 , NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio,
free jazz, a fine example of the art. The pianist has put out a lot
of material over the last few years, but this is only the second disc
to come my way.
- Martin Küchen/Jon Rune Strøm/Tollef Østvang: Melted Snow
(2014 , NoBusiness): Another Küchen sax trio, this one with
locals (not that Berthling and Noble are much more famous) and short
enough for a vinyl-only release. Not much reason to choose between
them, unless you're some sort of vinyl junkie.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Complementary Colors
(2015, Leo): Tenor sax and piano duo, two avant players with
intertwined histories going back at least to 1996. The focus on
color keeps this on the quiet side, which is not really what
either player is known for.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: Butterfly Whispers
(2015, Leo): Avant tenor sax-piano-drums trio, one that previously cut
2012's The Clairvoyant -- one of the Brazilian saxophonist's
finest albums. This struggles a bit to reach that level, but eventually
cranks it up a notch from the Perelman-Shipp duo, which is what adding
a good drummer should do.
- Nate Wooley Quintet: (Dance to) the Early Music (2015,
Clean Feed): Avant trumpet player, very prolific but he's never been
spectacular -- I count 15 records either his or co-headlined or in his
group Transit, with only one (led by Joe McPhee) rated high-B+. Still,
this one is terrific, possibly because he built this around a more
conservative composer -- 6 (of 9) tunes by Wynton Marsalis -- but also
because Josh Sinton's bass clarinet does the heavy lifting and provides
the right contrast for the leader's sharpest trumpet. Also helps to
have Eivind Opsvik on bass, Harris Eisenstadt on drums, and the
sparkle of Matt Moran's vibraphone.
- Jorrit Dijkstra: Neither Odd nor Even (2014-15 ,
Driff): Alto saxophonist, plays this one solo although he works in some
lyricon, analog synth, and effects pedals to get some supplementary
percussion, which makes a big difference.
- Juhani Aaltonen & Iro Haarla: Kirkastus (2013
, TUM): Duets, mostly tenor sax and piano, although Aaltonen
starts on flute -- demonstrating why he's my first pick in polls
on that generally disliked instrument; he also plays alto and bass
flute -- and Haarla's second instrument is harp.
- Svenska Kaputt: Suomi (2015, Moserobie): Swedish
group, far from finished, promises some sort of jazz-rock fusion,
but Dungen members Reine Fiske (guitar) and Johan Holmegard (drums)
are happy to play jazz, while Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass) gets into
the rhythm, and saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar builds up one marvelous
solo after another.
- David Friesen & Glen Moore: Bactrian (2015, Origin):
Two veteran mainstream bassists, mostly play duets although on five
cuts one or the other switches to piano. Not what you'd call rousing,
but surprisingly clear and very engaging and pleasant. Title comes
from the two-humped camel.
- Richard Sears Trio: Skyline (2014 , Fresh
Sound New Talent): Pianist, second album, trio with Martin Nevin
on bass and Evan Hughes on drums. Not avant but keeps you engaged.
- Charles Rumback: In the New Year (2015, Ears & Eyes):
Chicago drummer, seems to have a lot of side credits going back at
least to 2005, and at least one previous album under his own name.
Quintet here can slip from postbop to free, the two reeds meshing
nicely -- Caroline Davis on alto sax and Jason Stein on bass clarinet --
and Jeff Parker plays some fine guitar. With John Tate on bass.
- George Lewis: The George Lewis Solo Trombone Album
(1976 , Delmark/Sackville): Relatively early, before the AACM
star moved into electronics and obscurantism, you forget just how
skilled and fluid he was. Actually, much of this sounds like he's
playing two parts -- presumably overdubbed, at least on "Toneburst
(Piece for Three Trombones Simultaneously)" -- but even the clearly
solo parts are light and entertaining, a far cry from Braxton's
earlier For Alto.
- Tiny People Having a Meeting (2015, Black & Grey/Fast
Speaking Music): Not sure I'd call this a group, more like an ad hoc meeting
good for one rather unique album. The principals are poet/spoken
word artist Anne Waldman, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore,
and drummer Clark Coolidge -- the latter two also credited with
voice/text. Moore plays some rather avant guitar, which meshes
well with the alto sax of Waldman's nephew, Devin Brahja Waldman,
and Ambrose Bye's piano. They also picked up some text from beats
Peter Orlovsky and William S. Burroughs, including something on
evolution for space travel.
- The Katie Bull Group Project: All Hot Bodies Radiate
(2013 , Ashokan Indie): Singer, writes most of her stuff but
covers "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" here. Band leans avant with
Joe Fonda -- a longtime collaborator -- on bass, George Schuller on
drums, Landon Knoblock on piano/electronics, and Jeff Lederer on
soprano/tenor sax. She's struggled in the past but this all flows
- Ernie Krivda: Requiem for a Jazz Lady (2014 ,
Capri): Tenor saxophonist from Cleveland, has more than two dozen
albums since 1977, started on the avant margins but has matured into
a mainstream player. Quartet backed by piano-bass-drums. The lady
in question is Beverly Jarosz, a high school student murdered back
in Cleveland in 1964. Lots of liner notes I couldn't see my way
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Avant Age Garde I AMs of the Gal
Luxury (2015, Flat Langton's Arkeyes): A collective of poets
and jazz musicians, founded by Thomas Sayers Ellis and James Brandon
Lewis shortly after Amiri Baraka's death last year. Lewis has a couple
of remarkable left-of-mainstream sax albums, and he's joined here by
another saxophonist, Devin Brahja Waldman, bohemians like Thurston
Moore and Lydia Lunch, and others I don't recognize.
- Erik Friedlander: Oscalypso: Tribute to Oscar Pettiford
(2015, Skipstone): Pettiford was one of the great bassists of the
1950s, and one of the first to record on cello -- the higher range
making it more audible as a lead instrument. Friedlander is one of
a half-dozen prominent jazz cellists to emerge since the 1990s, so
it makes sense he would look back to his heritage. Quartet with
Michael Blake (sax), Trevor Dunn (bass), Michael Sarin (drums).
- Sonny Sharrock: Ask the Ages (1991 , MOD
Technologies): The guitarist was always hard to pin down, perhaps
because he was only intermittently recorded and tended to indulge
whoever was treating him. In this case, that was producer Bill
Laswell, who paired him with a respectable jazz rhythm section --
Elvin Jones and Charnett Moffett -- that could break free when
the moment suited them, and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, sounding
as otherworldly as ever.
- Larry Novak: Invitation (2014 , Delmark):
Pianist, b. 1933 in Chicago, cut a record in 1964, worked with
Peggy Lee and Pearl Bailey, taught at DePaul, finally cut another
record last year. Trio with Eric Hochberg and Rusty Jones, standards
counting the first two from Bill Evans.
- François Carrier/Steve Beresford/John Edwards/Michel Lambert:
Outgoing (2014 , FMR): My favorite alto saxophonist
and his sidekick drummer from Montreal sojourn to the Vortex Jazz
Club in London this time, pick up bassist Edwards, and pianist
Beresford sits in for three (of five) cuts. Exceptional this time
is the free rhythm, especially with the fractured piano. Carrier,
as expected, is superb.
- Andrew Jamieson: Heard the Voice (2015, Edgetone):
Pianist, AMG lists three previous albums. Solo here, despite the front
cover claim, "piano/in dialogue with/African American spirituals/and
church music." The call and response is in his head, but inspiration
and expression flows through his fingers and keys. Doesn't sound
churchy, and, well, I wouldn't know spiritual, but I'm moved.
- Steve Swell: Steve Swell's Kende Dreams: Hommage à Bartók
(2014 , Silkheart): The trombonist's liner notes clearly say
the album title is Kende Dreams, but that apostrophe on the
cover has misdirected pretty much everyone. A kende is an
ancient Hungarian religious figure, one eclipsed by the warriors
so prominent since Atilla the Hun. Supposedly Béla Bartók drew on
this history as well as the complex rhythms of east-central Europe,
but no Bartók is played here (unless pianist Connie Crothers slipped
some in). Rather, you get a quintet with two horns -- the leader's
trombone and Rob Brown's alto sax -- complementing each other, and
all the support anyone could hope for from William Parker and Chad
- Allen Lowe/Matthew Shipp/Kevin Ray/Jake Millett: In the Diaspora
of the Diaspora: Ballad for Albert (2015, Constant Sorrow): The
simplest of the series, starts with a piano solo of the title cut, and
ends with a piano-alto sax duet of the same. In between Ray (bass) and
Millett (electronics and turntable) add some depth but little detail. So
you basically get signature snippets of Lowe and/or Shipp, falling apart
instead of growing together.
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Where a Cigarette
Is Smoked by Ten Men (2015, Constant Sorrow): Lowe plays alto
and tenor sax here, but often gives way to clarinetist Zoe Christiansen,
especially on three "Blue for Pee Wee" (as in Russell) pieces. Those
pieces tie an album that otherwise seems to have more affinity for
Jimmy Giuffre's modernist abstractions back to their common roots.
- Steve Swell: The Loneliness of the Long Distasnce Improviser
(2015, Swell): Solo trombone. Not sure if this is the first in the two
dozen or so albums Swell has led since 1996, but there aren't many --
the instrument is slow and its range is limited, and torturing it for
unusual sounds rarely works. Helps here that he keeps his pieces short,
often built on vamps, and mixes them up. But then he's an exceptional
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: We Will Gather
When We Gather (2015, Constant Sorrow): An octet, although
that seems less a matter of harmonic design than who showed up: three
saxes, with Lowe on alto openin up a spot for Ras Moshe Burnett on
tenor, and Hamiet Bluiett -- little heard in recent years -- heroic
on baritone, more than making up for no trombone; Matt Lavelle's
trumpet the only brass; guitar instead of piano, with Ava Mendoza
determined to rock against the rhythm section's blues-based swing.
Four titles referring to blues and gospel are interweaved, but this
strikes me more as a spirit-channeling part record, a more moving
"hoodoo bash" than Peter Stampfel's record.
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Man With Guitar:
Where's Robert Johnson? (2013 , Constant Sorrow): Cover
goes on to describe this as "A Soundtrack," but I know not what for.
Also note that the credits include no guitar or voice, but there are
occasional samples (actually, sounds more like banjo), presumably
picked up from the sound track the music was composed for. Matters
little, since this is basically an alto sax showcase, and the fact
that I can't distinguish the 7 tracks Gary Bartz takes over from
Lowe's 9 tracks without looking at the conter is a high compliment.
Band also includes piano (Lewis Porter), trombone, and tuba, along
with various electronics sources (including DJ Logic).
- Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Krakow
Nights (2015, Not Two): Well, just one night, but running 74:27
it may have seemed like more. When you play with Brötzmann, you play
his bleeding edge rough and tumble. Within those limits the trombonist
smoothes off the edges and works in a few jabs, and the drummer works
this ring as well as anyone.
- Steve Swell: Kanreki: Reflection & Renewal (2011-14
, Not Two, 2CD): "Kanreki" is a Japanese celebration of one's 60th
birthday, something the avant-trombonist celebrated in 2014, similar to
a Festschrift in academia. For this one, Swell has compiled seven
pieces from as many places with as many groups -- actually six groups,
as one piece is solo. A long set with Guillermo Gregorio and Fred
Lonberg-Holm stands out, while the whole adds up to a fine portrait.
- Matthew Shipp: Matthew Shipp Plays the Music of Allen Lowe:
I Alone: The Everlasting Beauty of Monotony (2015, Constant
Sorrow): Front cover runs on: "Or: The Future, He Thought, Was Never
When He Expected It to Be," then follows with a list of musicians,
not including the alto saxophonist, who appears with band on half
of the tracks. The other half are solo piano -- more what I expected
from the title. I have no feel for Lowe as a composer, other than
the assumption that given his vast research he is adept at picking
out lines here and there and turning them around. (At one point I
recognized "Lullaby of Birdland" only to hear the next line head
somewhere else.) But I have heard a lot of solo Shipp, and his work
here is quite refreshing. The group pieces are even more fun, with
guitarists Michael Gregory Jackson and Ryan Blotnick standing out,
and Lowe's alto delightful.
- Aly Keïta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele
(2015 , Intakt): Keïta hails from Ivory Coast, playing balafon
and kalimba, the soft percussion marvelously matched to Brönnimann's
bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and soprano sax, with the drummer
adding an extra charge. I suppose I knew that Niggli was also born in
Africa -- in Cameroon in 1968 -- but hadn't run across Brönnimann
before: turns out he too was born in Cameroon, and they've known each
other since they were one year old.
- Aruán Ortiz Trio: Hidden Voices (2015 , Intakt):
Piano trio, the pianist Cuban-born, New York-based, has several albums.
Originals, standards by Monk and Coleman, extra percussion on one cut
for some Latin tinge, but mostly superb straight jazz, something you'd
expect with Eric Revis on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums.
- John Raymond: John Raymond & Real Feels (2014
, Shifting Paradigm): Trumpet player (flugelhorn here), has
a couple previous albums, this a trio with Gilad Hekselman (guitar)
and Colin Stranahan (drums). Mostly covers, folk-traditional
("Amazing Grace," "This Land Is Your Land") plus some that will
always seem too hokey ("Scarborough Fair," "Blackbird") -- but
not so much here.
- The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded: Routes (2015 ,
Strikezone): Guitarist Dave Stryker and alto saxophonist Steve Slagle,
have played on each other's albums since the 1980s and consolidated
into one of the more enduring partnerships in jazz history. Usually a
quartet, the "expanded" band includes John Clark on French horn and
extras on several tracks: tenor sax, trombone/tuba, piano/keyboards
(Bill O'Connell). Regardless, the altoist's solos are the high points.
- Roswell Rudd & Heather Masse: August Love Song
(2015 , Red House): Masse is a singer from Maine, part of the
folk group The Wailin' Jennys but also has a couple jazz albums.
She wrote one-and-a-half songs here -- the half segues into "Old
Devil Moon" -- and the trombone great wrote two songs, the rest
from the standards repertoire. With Rolf Sturm on guitar and Mark
Helias on bass, what I love is the trombone growl and rumble, but
the others, not least the singer, do their part too.
- Brooklyn Blowhards (2015 , Little (i) Music):
Mostly the work of Jeff Lederer (tenor/soprano
sax), with Petr Cancura (tenor sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet, slide
trumpet), and Brian Drye (trombone) adding to the horn power,
accordion but no bass, three drummers, guest spots for Gary Lucas
(guitar) and Mary Larose (vocal). Mostly trad sea shantys mixed
in with Albert Ayler covers, gospels that get under your skin.
Turns solemn toward the end with "Shenandoah" and "The Seaman's
- Ken Peplowski: Enrapture (2015 , Capri):
Clarinet and tenor sax, a retro guy but not much of a swinger --
an early album presented him as Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool.
Quartet, backed by Ehud Asherie (piano), Martin Wind (bass), and
Matt Wilson (drums). All covers, ranging from Ellington and Waller
to Lennon/Ono and Manilow, all gentle and cool, quite lovely.
- Mike Sopko/Simon Lott: The Golden Measure (2015
, self-released): Guitar-drums duo, the artists' names not on
the cover but the packaging is pretty minimal, like the concept:
punk jazz about sums it up, but being jazzbos there's nothing so
basic as pounding out a chord to a speeded up 4/4. But the attitude
fits, and punk has always been more about attitude than technique.
- The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game
(2001 , Jazzed Media): Doug Richards has taught at Virginia
Commonwealth University since 1979, founding its Jazz Studies program
and forming the Great American Music Ensemble (GAME), which played
annual Kennedy Center concerts from 1990-97, but while I've found a
1992 Geoffrey Himes piece raving about them, I've yet to find any
evidence that they recorded -- until now, that is, and this has been
sitting on the shelf since 2001. I don't recognize anyone in the big
band, but they exemplify Gary Giddins' notion of repertory concert
jazz as well as I can imagine. And special guests violinist Joe
Kennedy Jr., singer René Marie, and especially Jon Faddis -- whose
Armstrong is as uncanny as his Gillespie -- go the extra mile. Mostly
familiar tunes, but that's half the fun.
- Renku: Live in Greenwich Village (2014 , Clean
Feed): Avant-sax trio -- Michaël Attias on alto, John Hébert on bass,
Satoshi Takeishi on drums -- named for their 2004 album. Fine group,
nice balance, much of interest, almost state of the art.
- Protean Reality: Protean Reality (2015 , Clean
Feed): Spine has the title twice, so I'll accept that at the group
name. Still, I filed this alto sax trio in my database under Chris
Pitsiokis' name. Born 1990, he's been on a tear the last year or two.
This one has Noah Punkt (electric bass) and Philipp Scholz (drums).
Impressive show of free jazz technique, wears a bit thin.
- Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength &
Power (2015 , Rare Noise): Free jazz quartet, everything
joint-credited, presumably improvised on the spot. The trombonist has
done things like this in the distant past, none recently, and never has
he got the mix this right. Saft has emerged as an exceptional free jazz
pianist, and the bassist and drummer know the game.
- Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity (2014 , Samo):
Guitarist, from and still based in Slovenia, has been prolific since
2003 or so. I don't quite get the significance of this trio being
"bassless" -- basically it's a sax trio with Julian Argüelles (sic:
should be Arguëlles) on soprano and tenor, John Hollenbeck on drums,
and a guitarist who can take charge instead of a bassist to fill out
the harmonics. Really takes off when he does.
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Highest Engines Near/Near Higher
Engineers (2015 , Flat Langton's Arkeyes): Group founded
by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, with
others in unspecified roles. Starts in a school classroom and moves on,
at one point the rush of spoken word fragments coming so fast they
become disorienting, kind of like modern life. The saxophones (Devin
Brahja Waldman also contributes) are terrific.
- Harris Eisenstadt: Old Growth Forest (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Drummer, from Canada, has at least a dozen albums since
2002 (AMG lists 16). Quartet, Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Tony Malaby
(tenor sax) the horns, Jason Roebke on bass. I'm a little surprised
that the horns don't make a bigger splash, but the rhythm undercuts
whatever they do, and is more interesting for that.
- Thomas Borgmann Trio: One for Cisco (2015 ,
NoBusiness): German saxophonist (soprano, tenor, toy melodica),
plays free, two twenty-minute-plus improvs with Max Johnson on
bass and Willi Killers drums (and voice). One of those limited
edition vinyl-only releases.
- Ross Hammond and Sameer Gupta: Upward (2015 ,
Prescott): Guitar-tabla duo. Gupta is from San Francisco, has some
classical training but has also worked on a couple albums with jazz
pianist Marc Cary (one under Gupta's name). His tabla leads here,
while the guitarist nips around the edges. Enchanting background
- Marilyn Lerner/Ken Filiano/Lou Grassi: Live at Edgefest
(2013 , NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio, the bassist having an
especially good outing, the piano probing, never too settled.
- Chaise Lounge: Gin Fizz Fandango (2015 ,
Modern Songbook): DC-based cocktail jazz group, seventh album
(counting last year's least awful Xmas thing), guitarist-pianist
Charlie Barnett the putative leader. Singer Marilyn Older seems
intent on disappearing in the cover photo but is front and center
on the album. I'm not seeing song credits, but if these aren't
standards, some (e.g., "If I Never Get to Paris") should be. [PS:
All Barnett originals except for one Older lyric and "It's All
Right With Me" by Cole Porter.]
- Alberto Pinton Noi Siamo: Resiliency (2015 ,
Moserobie): Pinton's a multi-reed player from Venice, credited here
with baritone sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. "Noi siamo" is just
Italian for "we are." Leads a quartet here with Niklas Barno (trumpet)
Torbjorn Zetterberg (bass), and Konrad Agnas (drums), recorded live
in Stockholm. A real barnburner.
- Omri Ziegele Noisy Minority: Wrong Is Right (2015 ,
Intakt): Alto saxophonist, from Switzerland, sixth album since 2002,
his Zürich group Noisy Minority normally a trio with Jan Schlegel
(electric bass) and Dieter Ulrich (drums, bugle), joined here by
trombonist Ray Anderson -- adds another sonic layer, solo contrast,
and (I suspect) some funk to the uneven grooves. A bit of spoken
word early on suggests a direction they didn't take.
- Angelika Niescier/Florian Weber: NYC Five (2015 ,
Intakt): Polish alto saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 2002, teamed
with the German pianist and a pick up band in New York: Ralph Alessi
(trumpet), Christopher Tordini (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums).
Three tunes by each of the leaders, bursting with energy -- especially
strong showing by Alessi.
- Melissa Aldana: Back Home (2015 , Wommusic):
Tenor saxophonist, won a Monk prize which got her a record out on
Concord, well regarded in 2014 and not without merit. But I prefer
this fairly mainstream sax trio, with Pablo Menares on bass and
Jochen Rueckert on drums. Nothing especially fancy, four originals,
two pieces each from the band, Kurt Weill's "My Ship."
- Richard Poole/Marilyn Crispell/Gary Peacock: In Motion
(2014 , Intakt): Piano trio, drummer listed first for no reason
I've figured out other than that he usually gets listed last -- in my
database I find him so listed behind Patrick Battstone and Coat Cooke,
and his discography has a few more examples. Aside from a Peacock
standard, everything here is joint-credited, presumably improvised.
No complaints about the drummer, but the others are more famous for
good reasons, evident here even when they're not especially flashy.
- Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint (2015 ,
Table Pounding): Clarinetist David Krakauer, plays jazz with klezmer
roots and branches: the rhythm generating a lot of energy and the
clarinet threatening to screech. Band is built around electric guitar
(Sheryl Bailey) and bass (Jerome Harris), and employs a sampler,
plus a guest spot for Marc Ribot.
- Joseph Howell: Time Made to Swing (2015 , Summit):
Clarinetist, from California, second album, quartet with accordion (Cory
Pesaturo), bass, and drums. Standards, starts with "On the Sunny Side of
the Street" then veers into Parker ("Confirmation") and Monk ("Let's Cool
One"). High energy, the accordion beefs up the sound, the clarinet races.
- Cheryl Bentyne: Lost Love Songs (2003-11 ,
Summit): Standards singer, best known as part of Manhattan Transfer
but has fifteen albums on her own. This one collects songs from
three albums that only appeared in Japan: The Lights Still
Burn (2003), Moonlight Serenade (2003), Songs of
Our Time (2011). Torchy, gorgeous, "Will You Still Love Me
Tomorrow" sticks in your head long after the record ends.
- Leslie Pintchik: True North (2015 , Pintch Hard):
Pianist, from Brooklyn, has a handful of albums since 2003, mainstream,
with the usual touchstones (notably Bill Evans). Trio work is quite nice
here, although most of it adds extra percussion from Satoshi Takeishi,
so it's trio only in spirit. Also, about half of the tracks add horns --
Steve Wilson (alto/soprano sax), Ron Horton (trumpet/flugelhorn -- and
they expand on the spirit.
- Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular
Verbs (2015 , Pi): Not a Zooid album (an error I made
in unpacking). In fact, Threadgill doesn't play; he's only credited
with composition (four pieces, called "Part One" through "Part Four").
The ensemble does double up on piano (Jason Moran and David Virelles),
alto sax (Roman Filiu and Curtis MacDonald), and bass substitutes
(Christopher Hoffman on cello and Jose Davila on tuba), but only one
drummer (Craig Weinrib). Impressive group, way beyond the star pianists.
The composer gives them plenty to chew on, and they come up with one
surprise after another.
- William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (1975-89
, NoBusiness, 4CD): A trawl through the avant drummer's early oeuvre.
First disc starts with him solo, a failed soul singer backed only by his
own percussion. Then comes two monster pieces with saxophonists: a 26:48
trio with David Murray (1975), and a 19:27 duo with a young and even more
visceral David S. Ware. Second disc is more obscure, ending with a 16:07
trio with two saxophonists (Jameel Moondoc and Hasaan Dawkins). Third
jumps ahead to 1988, a previously unreleased trio with Roy Campbell on
trumpet and Booker T. Williams on tenor sax. Fourth gives you a set with
Lewis Barnes (trumpet) and Richard Keene (reeds) and a 16:18 drum solo.
All avant, very underground, and while the horns make a lot of noise,
there's very little filler -- I think just one cut with bass, no piano
or guitar -- so the drums always ring clear.
- Danny Green Trio: Altered Narratives (2015 , OA2):
Pianist, from Southern California, fourth album since 2009, plays postbop
with classical touches and a little Latin tinge. Augments his trio here
with a string quartet for the middle cuts, expanding the sound so much
I initially suspected an orchestra. Not the sort of thing I'm disposed
to like much, but his sweep and flow is remarkable and the sensation
just overwhelms you.
- Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays
(1966 , Resonance, 2CD): Jones was a veteran bebop trumpet
player, elder brother of Hank and Elvin, better known as a composer
than for his chops although his early records are remarkable. Lewis
was a big band drummer who came to prominence with Stan Kenton and
Woody Herman. In 1966 they put together a big band to play regular
gigs at New York's Village Vanguard, a band which survived leader
deaths in 1986 and 1990. This goes back to the band's first gigs,
and it's hard to exaggerate how vibrant they sound.
- Hanami: The Only Way to Float Free (2015 ,
Ears & Eyes): Chicago quartet, guitarist Andrew Trim wrote all
the pieces and effectively leads, flanked by two horns -- Jason
Stein on bass clarinet and Mai Sugimoto on alto sax and clarinet.
Charles Rumback is the drummer.
- Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (1964-65
, Resonance, 2CD): Organ player, broke out of the soul jazz
groove when he moved to Blue Note in 1965 -- his album Unity
(with Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, and Elvin Jones) is a masterpiece,
one of those Penguin Guide crown recordings. These lavishly
documented, previously unreleased recordings are transitional, most
from a quartet led by tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis -- a Kansas
City native who moved to Paris in 1963 -- with Shaw, in blistering
form, and drummer Billy Brooks. Young keeps those cuts simmering,
but you don't wind up with a very good sense of how. Also includes
a couple earlier cuts with various French musicians, including one
with Young playing piano.
- Jeff Williams: Outlier (2015 , Whirlwind):
Drummer, British, has a half dozen albums since 1994. Quintet, with
tenor sax (Josh Arcoleo), guitar (Phil Robson), piano/keyboards (Kit
Downes), and bass (Sam Lasserson, both double and electric). I hear
a lot of mainstream postbop that is expert but uninteresting, but
this has some bite and resonance to it without breaking avant ground.
- Ehud Asherie: Shuffle Along (2015 , Blue Heron):
Pianist, born in Israel but moved to Italy when he was three, then to
New York at nine, where he hung around Smalls and took lessons from
Frank Hewitt. Career has moved from bop to swing, and takes a further
step back here with his "solo piano interpretations from [Eubie] Blake
and [Noble] Sissle's 1921 Broadway musical" -- best known for "I'm Just
Wild About Harry," given two treatments here.
- Florian Egli Weird Beard: Everything Moves (2014
, Intakt): Swiss quartet, has a previous album without the
leader-saxophonist's name on the cover. Egli is backed by guitar
(Dave Gisler), electric bass, and drums. Most compelling when they
put a litle rock muscle into the rhythm, but the first word in the
booklet is "Gelassenheit" -- serenity.
- Piere Favre: DrumSights NOW (2015 , Intakt):
Drummer, from Switzerland, will turn 80 next year, old enough to
have played with Albert Nicholas in the 1950s but best known (in
my household at least) for three superb duo albums with pianist
Irène Schweizer. His own discography has several albums with drum
quartets, so I imagine he sees DrumSights as a successor group to
his Singing Drums. Joined here by Chris Jaeger, Markus Lauterberg,
and Valeria Zangger, the group plays as one -- which makes this
seductive album slightly less than the sum of its parts.
- Marty Elkins: Walkin' by the River (2014 ,
Nagel Heyer): Standards singer, from New Jersey, third album, with
guitarist Howard Alden swinging, both piano (Steve Ash) and organ
(Joel Diamond), and a stellar turn by Jon-Erik Kelso on trumpet.
- Steven Lugerner: Jacknife: The Music of Jackie McLean
(2015 , Primary): Alto saxophonist, has several impressive albums,
describes his group -- takes their name from a McLean nickname, also
the title of a 1970s compilation which was my intro to the alto great --
as postbop, although the sax-trumpet-piano-bass-drums quintet is one I
associate more with hard bop. But then, McLean's 1959-67 Blue Note albums
practically invented postbop, moving from hard bop through avant-garde
and into the synthesis postbop was founded on. Only two of six songs
here were actually penned by McLean (two come from Charles Tolliver),
but they all sound right, even if McLean's precise tone remains unique.
- The Ian Carey Quintet + 1: Interview Music (2015 ,
Kabocha): Trumpet player, several albums since 2005. Sextet -- yes,
there exists a more succinct term than "quintet + 1" -- includes bass
clarinet (Sheldon Brown), alto sax (Kasey Knudsen), piano (Adam Shulman),
bass and drums. Title piece a sprawling suite with four parts and an
interlude, a fine example of postbop composition and arrangement.
- The Jim Cullum Jazz Band/William Warfield: George Gershwin's
Porgy and Bess Live (1992 , Riverwalk Jazz, 2CD): This
would be Jim Cullum Jr. (b. 1941), a trad jazz cornetist and the son
of Jim Cullum Sr., founder of the Happy Jazz Band. Warfield (1920-2002)
was a black opera singer who appeared in the 1952 revival and later
State Department tours. Warfield narrates here, providing plot synopses
between instrumental versions of the songs -- many famous enough you
can recall the lyrics. I was turned off at first by the stereotyping --
a problem already evident at the folk opera's 1935 debut -- but the
band is superb if maybe a touch reverent, like they're recasting this
for History Channel. And while Warfield delves deep into dialect, the
second disc concludes with an interview that puts it all in context.
- Rent Romus/Teddy Rankin-Parker/Daniel Pearce: LiR
(2014 , Edgetone): Subtitled Live at Vamp followed by
"Vintage - Art - Music" separated by bullets. "LiR" is a song title,
and the artist names are all that's on the spine. Romus plays alto
and soprano sax and various flutes (not that I noticed the latter),
the others cello and drums. The sax is skechy, the cello like a bass
that got out of its box.
- Alexander Hawkins/Evan Parker: Leaps in Leicester
(2015 , Clean Feed): Improv duo, piano and tenor sax, the
former a young guy who can play with avant-gardists -- his group
Decoy has several albums with Joe McPhee -- and other styles, the
latter one of the legendary founders of European free jazz. A bit
subdued, which makes the music seem less radical than it is.
- Eric Revis Trio: Crowded Solitudes (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Bassist, first came to prominence in Branford Marsalis'
quartet, mostly has mainstream/postbop credits but his own records
have leaned more avant. Kris Davis is the pianist, and he's given
her a better trio showcase than she's managed to come up with on
her own. And Gerald Cleaver is the drummer -- the only trait he
shares with Paul Motian is that he's become the guy who anchors
all the best piano trios.
- Jean-Brice Godet Quartet: Mujô (2013 , Fou):
French, plays bass clarinet, looks like this may be his first album
although he's appeared on maybe 10-12, with a couple groups, also
with Joëlle Léandre. Here, with Michaël Attias (alto sax, a good
match), Pascal Niggenkemper (bass), and Carlo Costa (drums).
- The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Comin' Home Baby (2014
, Origin): Drummer-singer, mostly swings standards, throwing in
some blues, a couple Jobims, a couple songs by Bob Dorough and David
Frishberg. He opens, then wife Bonnie Eisele enters and outshines him,
a shtick Louis Prima and Keely Smith pioneered. Cover shows a couple
horn players but they're not in the credits -- just Johannes Bjerregaard
on piano and Chris Luard on bass.
- Julie Kjaer 3: Dobbeltgaenger (2015 , Clean Feed):
Alto saxophonist, website bio doesn't bother with any mundane details
like when and where born, where she studied, where she lives, but she
does appear to have a previous Kvartet album, a group called Pierette
Ensemble, and a chair in Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit. Elsewhere I
find that she's Danish and based in London, which would put her close
to her trio mates, John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums). I may
soft on avant sax trios, but this hits all the right buttons.
- Yves Theiler Trio: Dance in a Triangle (2015 ,
Musiques Suisses): Pianist from Switzerland, third album for his trio --
Luca Sisera on bass, Lukas Mantel on drums -- also has a duo with Omri
Ziegele and a few other appearances.
- Sonny Rollins: Holding the Stage: Road Shows Vol. 4
(1979-2012 , Okeh): He's 85 now, hasn't cut a new studio album
since 2006 but has been touring, and the latest stuff here is recent
enough that we'll be treating this as new music in the Jazz Critics
Poll. As usual, he's picking things from all over his tape archive,
and as usual they all fit together seamlessly because no one towers
over his band more completely than the Saxophone Colossus. Details:
one cut ("Disco Monk") from 1979, one from 1996, a medley from the
9/15/2001 Boston concert, half of the record from later tours (2006,
2007, 2012). Nothing essential (least of all the disco-era cut),
nothing unlike what you've heard before, still no reason not to
welcome these periodic reminders of his majesty.
- Phil Palombi: Detroit Lean (2015 , Xcappa):
Bassist, plays electric and "Scott LaFaro's Prescott bass" -- did
a record in 2011 called Re: Person I Knew: A Tribute to Scott
LaFaro and has published a book titled Scott LaFaro -- 15
Solo Transcriptions, but LaFaro died in 1961 so I don't see
how the math works out (Palombi's credits start around 1996 when
he joined Maynard Ferguson). Nice album here, interesting rhythms,
better solos from pianist Matthew Fries than on his own record,
some flamenco guitar by Tony Romano, and quite a few bass solos.
- Ivo Perelman: Soul (2015 , Leo): Brazilian
tenor sax man plus Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and
Whit Dickey (drums) -- the latter Shipp's regular trio. Everything
jointly credited, so figure improv but at least they came up with
nine titles. No squawk, nothing over the edge, but the sort of tight
avant interplay that keeps circling around on you, rewarding close
attention but pleasurable anyway you take it.
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris: Blue (2016, Leo): Morris plays
acoustic guitar here -- not his norm, certainly not powerful enough to
deflect let alone direct the tenor saxophonist in any direction, just
enough to scuff up the edges, adding fractal detail. Which is to say
- Ivo Perelman: Breaking Point (2015 , Leo):
Quartet, the other names on the cover but not on the spine: Mat Maneri
(viola), Joe Morris (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Maner can get
on my nerves at times, but generally adds a rich dynamic here.
- Gunwale: Polynya (2016, Aerophonic): Free sax trio,
with Dave Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone) leading, Albert Wildeman on
bass, and Ryan Packard on drums (and electronics). Not familiar with
the latter, but Rempis took over Mars Williams' slot in Vandermark 5,
making a huge impression. He does tend to go ugly here, but there's
more to it.
- Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family: Beginning of a Memory
(2015 , Palmetto): Drummer, has fifteen or so albums since 1996
plus numerous side credits -- one of those guys who always seems to be
helping others out. Dedicated this to his late wife, Felicia, who died
at 50 in 2014. Thirteen musicians listed, but doesn't feel like a big
band, probably because the numerous horns express more than arrangements.
- Naftule's Dream: Blood (2013 , self-released):
Fifth album from a group led by clarinetist Glenn Dickson, or sixth
if you count the 1992 album by Shirim Klezmer Orchestra that launched
the group name -- Naftule, of course, is the legendary clarinetist
Naftule Brandwein (1884-1963). This one's rather dark and twisty,
especially Andrew Stern's guitar backed by Jim Gray's tuba.
- Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Periheleon
(2015 , Aerophonic, 2CD): Cover/spine just gives you last names,
as if these Chicago avant-gardists are household names. Alto/tenor/baritone
sax, bass, drums, plus piano/electronics -- three long pieces, just barely
over the single-disc limit so 43:09 + 40:32. Runs the range of their art,
with Rempis remaining one of the most impressive saxophonist of his time.
- Bobby Avey: Inhuman Wilderness (2015 , Inner
Voice Jazz): Pianist, plays in Dave Liebman's Expansion group and
has several albums on his own. This has one solo track, three trios,
and four cuts with alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher -- a fine match
for the pianist's own edgy style.
- Jane Ira Bloom: Early Americans (2015 , Outline):
Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specialists, seventeenth album since
1980. Postbop, but trio feels exceptionally lively from the start --
helps to have Mark Helias on bass and Bobby Previte on drums.
- Rhys Chatham: Pythagorean Dream (2016, Foom):
Guitarist/trumpeter, roots in post-classical avant-garde (LaMonte
Young, Tony Conrad, Eliane Radigue) although he also pops up in
experimental rock (e.g., no wave) and possibly jazz (if you wish
to take this that way). Instrumental, tends to repeat background
patterns as if gargling them, still they have some fascination.
More generally a subject for further research (as is Conrad and
Radigue -- I have some unplayed records by each).
- Barry Guy: The Blue Shroud (2015 , Intakt):
British avant-bassist, founder and leader of London Jazz Composers
Orchestra, comes up with another large-scale orchestral piece here,
at times an opera with Savina Yannatou's voice, otherwise thirteen
pieces including strings (violin, viola, bass), four saxes (one
doubling on oboe, another on "reed trumpet"), trumpet, tuba, guitar,
piano, two drummers. Difficult music, often remarkable.
- Greg Ward: Touch My Beloved's Thought (2016,
Greenleaf Music): Alto saxophonist from Chicago, has a couple
previous albums, got a commission for a piece to go with dance
and flashed back to Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the
Sinner Lady. Came up with a tentet with three saxes and
four brass to cover the harmonics and piano-bass-drums to keep
it all moving.
- Erik Friedlander: Rings (2016, Skipstone): Got the
title wrong on unpacking, where I listed this as "Black Phebe" --
the name of the cellist's trio (Shoko Nagai on piano and accordion,
Satoshi Takeishi on percussion). Don't know why at his point, as
the cover and spine can only be read as Rings. Title comes
from three pieces that "use live looping at a compositional process"
and jump to a higher energy orbit.
- Tony Malaby Paloma Recio: Incantations (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, also plays soprano, as a sideman he
often steals the show, but is often more moderate as a leader. This
quartet, named for a 2009 album, has Ben Monder (guitar), Eivind
Opsvik (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Starts self-effacingly
moderate, but catches fire in the end.
- RED Trio/John Butcher: Summer Skyshift (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Portuguese piano trio led by Rodrigo Pinheiro. Since their
excellent eponymous debut, they've made it a habit to hook up with
various guests, and the English avant-saxophonist is an ideal mate.
At least, seems so at first, although they aren't always up to that
level of fire.
- Kali Z. Fasteau: Intuit (2012-13 , Flying Note):
Multi-instrumentalist (here: drums, nai flute, viola, mizmar, aquasonic,
voice) and avant-garde gadfly, continues her work with saxophonists
Kidd Jordan and L. Mixashawn Rozie. Jordan's opening foray is one of
the most delicately measured things I've ever heard him do, and he
remains notable in the hit-and-miss that follows.
- Nacka Forum: We Are the World (2016, Moserobie):
Swedish group, Google suggests they must have been named after a
suburban shopping center near Stockholm. Quartet, Jonas Kullhammar
(saxes) is the name I'm most familiar with, along with Goran Kajfes
(cornet, trumpet), Johan Berthling (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums,
also some piano). Opens with bravado, then shifts to more methodical
constructions, rewarding close listening.
- Festen (2015 , Clean Feed): Swedish
avant quartet, no one I've ever heard of: Isak Hedtjärn (reeds), Lisa
Ullén (piano), Elsa Bergmann (double bass), Erik Carlsson (drums).
Four pieces, hits spots both sweet and sour, shows there's still room
for a pianist in a cutting edge sax quartet as long as she makes
- Jonas Cambien Trio: A Zoology of the Future (2016,
Clean Feed): Pianist, from Belgium, has previously recorded in groups
Platform and Karokh but this qualifies as his debut. Trio adds André
Roligheten (soprano/tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Andreas Wildhagen
(drums), and they mix it up.
- Harvey Valdes: Point Counter Point (2016, self-released):
Brooklyn guitarist, definitely electric, second album, a trio with Sana
Nagano on violin and Joe Hertenstein on drums. The violin predominates,
sharpening the edges of the guitar strings to create a fresh take on
- Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise
(2015 , Intakt): Guitarist, many albums since his early
Guitar Solos (1974) when he staked his avant-garde claims
by working with prepared guitar. This is still fairly far out,
scratchy avant guitar backed by Jason Hoopes (electric and double
bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums, percussion). Some slavic-sounding
voice, but it doesn't stick around.
- Fresh Cut Orchestra: Mind Behind Closed Eyes (2016,
Ropeadope): Ten-piece group from Philadelphia led by Josh Lawrence
(trumpet), Jason Fraticelli (bass & cuatro), and Anwar Marshall
(drums), who share writing credits pretty evenly. Latin tinge, much
emphasis on rhythm, especially irresistible on the closer "Gallo y
- David Greenberger, Keith Spring, and Dinty Child: Take Me Where
I Don't Know I Am (2016, Pel Pel): More spoken word texts from
conversations at a nursing home in Jamaica Plain, MA 1979-83 -- back far
enough you get a good story about Joe Louis. The others (and Keiji
Hashimoto) provide the music, which is jazzy for the opener on "Three
Spaniels" and moodier toward the end, not least for the nonogenarian
who hopes to die soon.
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Play All the Notes
(2016, Hot Cup, EP): The third of four promised EPs this year, to
be rolled up into a box later this year. Group has two formidable
saxophonists -- Jon Irabagon (alto) and Bryan Murray (tenor, prepared
tenor, and balto, here dba Balto Exclamationpoint) -- with MOPDTK
leader Moppa Elliott on bass and Dan Monaghan on drums. Probably the
best of the series thus far, not least for the leader's strong solos,
but I still have qualms about the marketing concept, and it's short
(three tracks, 26:44).
- Jürgen Wuchner/Rudi Mahall/Jörg Fischer: In Memoriam: Buschi
Niebergall (1997 , Sporeprint): Niebergall was a German
avant-bassist, 1938-90, played in Globe Unity Orchestra and many key
groups of the early German avant-garde (Brötzmann, Hampel, Rolf Kühn,
Mangelsdorff, Schlippenbach, Schoof, other household names), although
I don't think he ever quite qualified as a leader. The leader is a
bassist in the same vein, helped out here by Mahall on bass clarinet
and Fischer on drums.
- The Evenfall Quartet: The Evenfall Quartet (2015
, Blue Duchess): Boston group, first album, very mainstream tenor sax (Mark
Earley), piano (Joe "Sonny" Barbato), bass (Brad Hallen), drums (Jerzy
"Jurek" Glod) outfit. All standards, leading with "That Old Black
Magic," passing through "Time After Time" and "Old Devil Moon" and
"After You're Gone" to wrap up with "Stardust." Earley's background
is playing in blues bands (Duke Robillard, Roomful of Blues) and he
doesn't have the rich vibrato of a Bob Rockwell much less Ben Webster,
nor does the band aspire to anything retro (like a Scott Hamilton).
In short, as a critic I should insist on them working harder, doing
something more ambitious, but in fact my idea of a perfectly lovely
- Joel Miller With Sienna Dahlen: Dream Cassette
(2014 , Origin): Dahlen sings, but so does Miller, who also
plays sax, piano, acoustic guitar, tanpura and percussion, plus
he composed all the songs (except one he added lyrics to, but
Dahlen is credited with lyrics elsewhere). Jazz label, but I'm
hearing echoes of Smile-era Beach Boys, other harder to
pin down art rock, and some pretty decent sax wails.
- Mathias Landaeus: From the Piano (2016, Moserobie):
Swedish painist, has ten or so albums since 1996. Claims he's "using
only sounds from his 1919 Steinway Moderno Grand Piano," but many
don't sound like piano at all -- various plucked string resonances
and percussion, gives it an avant-electronic feel but not electronica.
- Brahja Waldman: Wisdomatic (2016, Fast Speaking Music):
Alto saxophonist, also plays synth here, has several albums, this a
quintet with Adam Kinner on tenor sax, D Shadrach Hankoff on piano,
Martin Heslop on bass, and Daniel Gelinas on drums. Most songs build
off a mechanical up-down, push-pull rhythm, just enough framework to
elaborate something enticing on.
- Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra: Bridges From the
East (2016, Elektra Sound Works/Milo): Violinist, "of Greek
origin," raised in Poland, studied in Finland, wound up in New York.
Most resumes are inflated but I'm struck by the mix of names in hers,
including Edward Vesala, Max Roach, Simon Shaheen, Gerry Mulligan,
Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Nona Hendrix, Butch Morris, Billy Bang, Steve
Coleman, and Nas. Not sure how old she is but many names on that list
are dead, and her Ensemble Elektra has an album dated 2000. Group
includes a second violin, clarinet, bass, and drums. Music comes
from all over her map, with Greek and Polish folk themes merging
into tango and a little M-Base does Bartok.
- Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman/Ikue Mori/Evan Parker: Miller's
Tale (2015 , Intakt): Piano, violin, electronics, soprano
and tenor sax, respectively. Feldman is the most classical-sounding of
jazz violinists and seems to dominate at first, but the more you listen
the more interesting the fractured piano and sax become. Still not sure
about the electronics.
- Rich Halley 5: The Outlier (2015 , Pine Eagle):
Tenor saxophonist, has an impressive run of albums since he retired
from his day job, mostly quartet affairs with Michael Vlatkovich on
trombone, Clyde Reed on bass, and son Carson Haley on drums. The fifth
here is Vinny Golia (baritone sax, bass clarinet) -- one of Halley's
early albums was recorded on Golia's Nine Winds label. This is something
of a mess, but frequently turns magnificent, as if rising up from chaos
is a good thing. Guess it is.
- Fred Hersch: Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016,
Palmetto): The pianist's fourth Vanguard title, although
when I saw this title I flashed not on his own previous efforts but
on Bill Evans' justly legendary Sunday at the Village Vanguard --
Hersch has always had a thing for Evans, but in the liner notes he
only mentions the first time he sat foot in the Village Vanguard, in
1976 for Dexter Gordon's homecoming (the only time I ever went there).
Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson mostly staying out of the
way -- not my recipe for for a great piano trio but the pianist is
on such a roll he's fascinating anyway.
- Peter Kuhn: No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn,
1978-1979 (1978-79 , NoBusiness, 2CD): Plays clarinet,
bass clarinet, and tenor sax. Another reissue from the New York "loft
scene" years, when avant-jazz went underground, that period after most
US jazz labels folded or slunk into fusion and before European labels
like Hat and Soul Note picked up the slack (Kuhn, by the way, has
1981-82 albums on both, but little after that). First disc is from
same group that recorded Arthur Williams' Forgiveness Suite --
Williams and Toshinori Kondo on trumpet, William Parker on bass, and
Dennis Charles on drums -- is often bracing, a solid effort. Second
disc is just Kuhn with Charles, a better showcase for each. Comes
with a substantial booklet helping us recover valuable history.
- Peter Kuhn Trio: The Other Shore (2015 ,
NoBusiness): Kuhn plays b-sharp and bass clarinet, tenor and alto
sax, backed here by Kyle Motl on bass and Nathan Hubbard on drums.
He came out of the late '70s loft scene, recorded obscure albums
with Arthur Williams and/or Dennis Charles (recently reissued by
NoBusiness), and mostly vanished after 1982, until recently. This
picks up where the old records left off, and while it won't shock
or startle, this is the sort of inside creativity one listens to
free jazz for.
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rising Colossus
(2015 , Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, I've become a big fan of
his work in recent years. Here he goes big, with a septet that sounds
larger still, doing pieces "he's commissioned from younger Bay Area
artists," fellow altoists John Tchicai and Anthony Braxton, plus one
original. Hits a couple nubs that gave me pause, but ultimately they
power through everything.
- Slavic Soul Party: Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite
(2014 , Ropeadope): New York jazz guys started this Slavic
dance band on a lark, have six albums now, but as I said, despite
various lineup changes they're still New York jazz guys. This
lineup is a nonet with accordion, tuba, and Matt Moran playing
percussion instruments I'm unfamiliar with. Still, they stay
pretty close to the text -- one of my all-time favorite suites
of music. I miss Johnny Hodges, of course, but still find this
irresistible. The original, of course, is greater still.
- Cortex: Live in New York (2015 , Clean Feed):
Norwegian avant-jazz quartet -- Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer
Alberts (saxophones), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- second
album on Clean Feed, may have more but share no relationship I can find
with the 1975-79 French avant band Cortex. They can really kick up a
storm, making this relatively short live album (35:38) pretty huge.
- Karlis Auzins/Lucas Leidinger/Tomo Jacobson/Thomas Sauerborn:
Mount Meander (2015 , Clean Feed): Of course, the
group name is Mount Meander -- nothing else on the spine, and the
individual names are barely legible on the cover. Respectively:
tenor/soprano sax, piano, double bass, drums. Recorded in Denmark.
Ambitious compositions, pushing limits, they don't always pay off
but produce more than a few fine moments.
- Roji: The Hundred Headed Woman (2016, Shhpuma/Clean
Feed): Basically a duo, with Gonçalo Almeida (bass and loops) and
Jörg A. Schneider (drums) laying down an avant-noise foundation,
and guests Susana Santos Silva (trumpet) and Colin Webster (baritone
sax) joining for three tracks each (out of seven).
- Modular String Trio: Ants, Bees and Butterflies
(2014 , Clean Feed): Sergiy Okhrimchuk (violin), Robert
Jedrzejewski (cello), Jacek Mazurkiewicz (contrabass, electronics),
but there's also a less obvious, unexplained credit: Lukasz Kacperczyk
(modular synth). I'm not all that fond of chamber jazz, for for that
matter string ensembles, but these plucky abstractions hold my interest.
- Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (2014 ,
NoBusiness): Chicago avant-bassist, has a few albums of his own
and more with other Chicago players, many of whom he rounded up
for his octet: Josh Berman (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Keefe
Jackson (tenor/soprano sax, contrabass clarinet), Greg Ward (alto
sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Mike
Reed (drums). The rhythmic foundation is always shifting, and the
horns sway to and fro or just shoot out in odd directions, a
universe in perpetual turmoil.
- Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Drums and trumpet duo, Dickey mostly associated with
Matthew Shipp since the late 1980s. Usual caveats about avant duos
apply, but hard to fault the interplay.
- Stirrup: Cut (2016, Clean Feed): String-driven avant
trio: Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, guitar), Nick Maori (double bass),
Charles Rumback (drums). Seems pretty straightforward: propulsive
beat, string drone, easier on guitar but the cello has more bite.
- Steve Lehman: Sélébéyone (2016, Pi): Alto saxophonist,
Anthony Braxton student, has had a couple records of the year (and not
just in my book: Mise en Abime topped the Jazz Critics Poll).
Goes for something else here, with HPrizm rapping and Gaston Bandimic
singing in Wolof, rhythms borrowed from hip-hop and mbalax then freed
up some more by drummer Damion Reid. I really don't know what to make
of it, but I do love the shifty in-between music, with Maciek Lasserre's
soprano bouncing off the alto, Carlos Homs' keyboards, and Drew Gress
holding it all together on bass.
- Stephan Crump: Stephan Crump's Rhombal (2016, Papillon):
Bassist, ten or so albums since 1997, I especially like his knack for
mixing the bass up so it balances evenly with the other instruments --
harder to do here in a two-horn quartet, but he manages it nonetheless.
With Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), and Tyshawn
- Susana Santos Silva/Lotte Anker/Sten Sandell/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Jon
Fält: Life and Other Transient Storms (2015 , Clean Feed):
Trumpet player from Portugal, saxophonist from Denmark, piano-bass-drums
from somewhere in Scandinavia. Two long pieces, joint improvs at Tampere
Jazz Happening in Finland, pretty much an ordinary day in the life of the
European jazz avant-garde, including no short amount of complex and
- Jim Black Trio: The Constant (2015 , Intakt):
Terrific drummer, has played in numerous important groups -- just to
pick a couple, Dave Douglas's Tiny Bell Trio, Ellery Eskelin's Trio,
Tim Berne's Bloodcount -- has a dozen or so albums on his own. This
is a piano trio, his songs, Elias Stemeseder on piano, Thomas Morgan
on bass. Snappy material, especially around the edges.
- Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre:
Musical Monsters (1980 , Intakt): Recorded at Willisau
in north-central Switzerland, hence the all-Swiss rhythm section, the
headliners playing trumpet and alto sax. Danish-born Tchicai joined the
New York avant-garde in the mid-'60s, picking up a pronounced Ayler
influence (and shout), while Cherry started out with Ornette Coleman
and went global. Impressive piano too, and terrific work from Favre.
- Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . .
(2016, Dreadnaught Music): Folksinger, born in Detroit in 1927 of
parents who migrated north from Arkansas, moved to San Francisco
in the 1950s. I've long regarded her 1959 Anthology of American
Folk Songs as a classic, and vaguely recall her longstanding
political activism -- her recording career petered out in the early
1970s with FTA! Songs of the GI Resistance and I Hate the
Capitalist System -- but wasn't aware she wrote songs with Lu
Watters, cut albums with Lightnin' Hopkins and the Chambers Brothers,
or one called Livin' With the Blues (with Earl Hines, Benny
Carter, and Shelly Manne). She's 88 now, thanks Mose Allison's "My
Brain" for getting hers back to work, and her voice has aged fine.
Hall's piano trio turns her into a jazz singer, guest harmonica and
sax flesh out the blues. Starts with Memphis Minnie, then Leonard
Cohen, Abbey Lincoln, Paul Simon, then gets more personal, and
political, and/or corny. When she sketches out her dream society
and asks "What Kind of Country" that would be, "socialism" is so
obviously the answer she doesn't need to mention it (or Bernie).
- Kris Davis: Duopoly (2015 , Pyroclastic):
Avant-pianist, from Canada, has a dozen or more albums since 2003
establishing herself as a major figure. Duets here with eight
partners -- guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists
Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and
Marcus Gilmore, also Don Byron (clarinet) and Tim Berne (alto
sax) -- one tune and one shorter free improv each. All interesting,
but Byron and especially Berne are most compelling. Comes with a
DVD encrypted so I can't play it on my computer (may be my problem,
but not one I feel up to dealing with).
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Changes
(2016, Hot Cup, EP): Guitarist, group includes formidable saxophonists
Jon Irabagon and Bryan Murray, Moppa Elliott on bass and Dan Monaghan
on drums. The fourth and last of this year's promised set of EPs, to
be released digitally September 30 along with a 4-CD package rolling
them all up. I'm not wild about the marketing concept -- stretches my
work and filing out on what could just as well have been two CDs in
a single package. Main economy would be that they're very consistent,
with a slight nod to EP:3 Play All the Notes. Four cuts, 31:34.
- Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens (1988 ,
Resonance): A major jazz singer from 1965 to her death in 2005,
and such a sparkling pianist she not only accompanied herself but
was in demand for non-vocal sessions. At some point I need to go
back and listen to the albums she released in her lifetime (only
four in my database), but this is the sort of posthumous record
that motivates such a search. Backed with bass, drums, and her
own impeccable piano, she covers standards she made a career of
(including two Jobims, and a definitive "Lover Man"), reminding
us she was major indeed.
- Dave Stryker: Eight Track II (2016, Strikezone):
Guitarist, usually works with saxophonist Steve Slagle but decided
to try a no horns groove record, anchored by Jared Gold's organ
with excellent sparkle from Steve Nelson's vibes. All covers,
rock and soul standards -- the ones I always notice are "When
Doves Cry," "Time of the Season," and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered,"
but looking at the list I could kick myself for not identifying
- Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (2015 , High Two):
Kevin Diehl's former Sonic Liberation Front, shorn of most of the horns
and voices but still built around Cuban bata drums, joined here by guests
in small type: the Classical Revolution Trio (violin and two cellos), who
tilt this toward post-classical weepy abstraction, and alto saxophonist
Oliver Lake, who brings us back to avant-jazz.
- Shirantha Beddage: Momentum (2014 , Factor):
Identifies himself as a baritone saxophonist but credit here, on
his fifth album, reads "woodwinds and keyboards." David Restivo
also plays the latter, and they're backed by two bassists (one
acoustic, one electric) and two drummers. The baritone resonates,
the tunes mainstream enough he's been nominated for a Juno, but
nothing overly slick.
- Little Johnny Rivero: Music in Me (2016, Truth
Revolution): Percussionist (conga, bongo, timbales, "and other"),
has worked with Orquesta Colon and Eddie Palmieri, keeps the salsa
beat moving while a band including Brian Lynch (trumpet), Zaccai
Curtis (piano, Fender Rhodes), Luques Curtis (bass), drums, and
various guests vamp away.
- Franklin Kiermyer: Closer to the Sun (2015 ,
Mobility Music): Drummer, has a thing for the scattered sacred musics
of the world but mostly the late sainted Coltrane. Conventional sax
quartet, no one I've ever heard of -- Lawrence Clark (tenor sax),
Davis Whitfield (piano), Otto Gardner (bass) -- but they're thrilling
when they run wild, and when they slow down you hang on the tension.
- The Phil Norman Tentet: Then & Now: Classic Sounds &
Variations of 12 Jazz Legends (2015 , Summit): Near-big
band, led by the tenor saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 1997,
most recently an In Memoriam of Bob Florence. Repertory here,
I should recognize everything but "Lullaby of Birdland" and "Manteca"
jump out at me, even more so the upscaling of "Take Five."
- Craig Hartley: Books on Tape Vol. II: Standard Edition
(2015 , self-released): Pianist, in a trio with Carlos De Rosa
on bass and Jeremy Clemons on drums. One original, six (or seven)
standards -- the last a mashup of "Imagine" and "Peace Pipe" --
starting with sprightly takes of "Caravan" and "Jitterbug Waltz."
- Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton: Deep Memory
(2015 , Intakt): Bassist-led piano trio playing Guy's pieces,
a couple of which let Crispell break out some awesome avant piano
chops. Not sure that's enough, but the more subdued stretches offer
much of interest, and the drummer is used to holding his own.
- Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Big Wheel Live (2015
, Intakt): Swiss tenor saxophonist, leads a quintet with
piano (Stefan Aeby), guitar (Dave Gisler), bass and drums. Free
but mild-mannered, even when nothing is settled.
- Honey Ear Trio: Swivel (2014 , Little (i)
Music): Sax-bass-drums trio, with Jeff Lederer, Rene Hart, and
Allison Miller -- I filed their 2011 debut under Erik Lawrence
but he's the only one who didn't return. Lederer has less power
but trickier moves (cf. his Brooklyn Blowhards earlier
this year). All three write (also Thelonious Monk), and Kirk
Knuffke (cornet) joins on three tracks.
- Hearts & Minds: Hearts & Minds (2014 ,
Astral Spirits): Eponymous group album, a trio of Chicago avants --
Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Paul Giallorenzo (synthesizer), and
Frank Rosaly (drums) -- organized into Side A and Side B for vinyl
or, in my case, a fairly short CD. Free, jumpy, but with the soft
touch the horn is noted for.
- Mili Bermejo/Dan Greenspan: Arte Del Dúo (2016,
Ediciones Pentagrama): Voice and bass duets, intimately bound and
balanced, not that I can follow the lyrics -- Spanish, I presume,
given that singer Bermejo was born in Argentina and raised in
Mexico City (also a professor at Berklee since 1984).
- Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Duet (2015 , Long Song):
Avant piano-bass duets. Fonda has a lot of experience with adventurous
pianists, notably with Matthew Shipp and Michael Jefry Stevens, and it
helps to focus on his work here, even when the pianist takes your breath
away. After the 37:10 piece dedicated to the late Paul Bley, trumpeter
Natsuki Tamura joins in for the 11:20 finale.
- Billy Hart & the WDR Big Band: The Broader Picture
(2016, Enja/Yellowbird): The veteran drummer composed all of these
pieces, some going back to the 1970s, and took over as the WDR Big
Band's drummer, but the star here is Christophe Schweizer, arranger
of the pieces and director of the big band. The WDR Big Band has
long been one of the most competent of Europe's institutional bands,
but even they have rarely brought their guest star's music so vividly
- Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (2015 ,
Firehouse 12): Guitarist, protégé of Anthony Braxton, has previous
Quintet and Septet albums, here adding Susan Alcorn (pedal steel)
to the latter: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax),
Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Jacob Garchik (trombone), John Hébert
(bass), Ches Smith (drums). Slippery pieces, much to admire but hard
to pin them down, especially with the guitarist most elusive of all.
- Beekman: Vol. 02 (2015 , Ropeadope): Tenor sax
quartet based in Brooklyn, pianist Yago Vazqauez (also Rhodes) listed
first although all write with saxophonist Kyle Nasser most prolific --
4/9 songs, vs. 3 for Vazquez, 2 for Pablo Menares (bass), 1 by Rodrigo
Recabarren (drums). Boppish, flows fast and hard.
- Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae
(2014 , Clean Feed): Drummer-led Norwegian octet, with three
saxes (alto, tenor, baritone/bass), trumpet, trombone, piano, bass:
tremendous power from a horns section, but also texture, layering,
and detail, propelled by a rhythm section with a hint of swing.
Looks like a debut record, likely my ballot pick.
- Elliott Sharp Aggregat: Dialectrical (2016, Clean
Feed): After many years as an avant-garde gadfly, mostly playing
guitar, he's turned into a free jazz stalwart, here playing reed
instruments (soprano/tenor sax, Bb/bass clarinet), in a group
named for his 2012 album -- his best as far as I know. This one
gives 76-year-old drummer Barry Altschul a "Feat." on the cover,
and spreads the horns out with Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet and
Terry L. Greene II on trombone, plus Brad Jones on bass. Sharp
indeed, though also a bit shrill.
- Steve Noble & Kristoffer Berre Alberts: Condest Second
Yesterday (2015 , Clean Feed): English drummer, has a
long discography since 1987 mostly with European avant-gardists, here
in a duo with a relatively new tenor saxophonist from Norway -- brings
tremendous energy, although he does tend to squawk.
- Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann (2016, Clean Feed):
rock" group, a power trio with guitar-bass-drums but no singer, so
they're into densely textured noise. That suits the saxophonist. He
does what he's been doing for nearly fifty years, but the framing
makes this more accessible without compromising his rawness.
- Punkt 3: Ordnung Herrscht (2015 , Clean Feed):
Group named for German bassist-composer Noah Punkt, who has a previous
solo album, two previous trios, and various other projects. This is
a trio with saxophonist Tobias Pfister and drummer Ramon Oliveras,
free jazz, sharp but not too aggressive.
- JD Allen: Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues
(2016, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, leads a trio with Gregg August
on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Sticks to basics here, doesn't
strain or strive, but makes it all -- mostly original pieces, only
one cover dating back to the '30s -- feel natural, unforced.
- Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (2015
, HighNote): Two old guys playing sax-bass duets at a casual
pace on comfortable standards. Carter has probably appeared on more
records than any other jazz musician (Morton & Cook once tried
counting and decided Ray Brown held that distinction, but Carter
has long passed Brown). Back cover has a photo of the two with an
old white man sandwiched between the more imposing black figures --
presumably that's Executive Producer Joe Fields, who signed Person
to Prestige in the 1960s and kept him close ever since. This isn't
their first duet album. I should probably recheck that one, but
for now I'm too much in love with this one. Guess I'm getting old
- Wadada Leo Smith: America's National Parks (2016,
Cuneiform, 2CD): Trumpet player, came of age in Chicago's AACM but
remained obscure until around 2000 when he started to break out of
expectations -- an album with Thomas Mapfumo (from Zimbabwe), an
"Electric Miles" trbute band with Henry Kaiser, and recently a series
of extended compositions (including The Great Lakes Suites
and Ten Freedom Summers). This sprawling six-piece, written
for his Golden Quintet (piano-cello-bass-drums) draws inspiration
from all around the country, and strikes me as being as heavy and
ponderous as its subject matter, but dotted with marvelous, often
- Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loueke/Eric Harland:
Aziza (2016, Dare2): Bass, tenor/soprano sax, guitar/vocals,
drums -- not sure why I missed the first two names when I filed this
(other than that my advance didn't come with a cover, and the spine
only says Aziza). Strong rhythm record, moves right along.
Potter, of course, is superb, and when he switches to soprano they
just double down on the Latin tinge. Two songs each, the sort of
balance you rarely find in a supergroup.
- Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (2015
, Clean Feed): Another fine Norwegian freebop group, quintet
with trumpet, tenor sax/clarinets, piano, bass, and drums -- no one
I've heard of before. Four of the five contribute songs, with André
Roligheten (reeds) marginally more prolific (and listed first in
- George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (2016,
HighNote): Pianist, has a long list of records since 1975, many
well regarded ones on SteepleChase I haven't heard so I tend to
remember him best for his stellar work with Art Pepper. Something
of a career recap here, with a superb trio (Essiet Essiet and
Victor Lewis) augmented by sax (Craig Handy) on five tracks,
percussion (Victor Kroom) on four, and vocals (Sarah Elizabeth
Charles) on six.
- Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (2015 ,
Intakt): Avant pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, with Evan Parker
on tenor sax, and Paul Lovens on drums -- a trio for more than forty
years. Frenetic and sketchy when they started out, now old masters
to don't mind kicking up their heels.
- Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (2015 ,
self-released): Saxophonist, credited here with alto, soprano, tenor,
flute, alto flute, and clarinet; leading a quartet with Kevin Hays
on piano and Fender Rhodes, Gianluca Renzi on acoustic bass, and
Ari Hoenig on drums. Nothing I think of as "chamber jazz," although
he incorporates bits from some classical composers as well as
Nascimento and Miles Davis, adding to the album's sheer catchiness.
- Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: I Want That Sound!
(2016, Innova): Alto saxophonist Ken Field's Boston-based answer
to New Orleans' second line brass bands, actually just a sextet
with two saxes, trumpet, and the trombonist doubling on tuba.
Fourth album, more of their infectious funk groove.
- Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 3: Three
Places in New England (2016, Creative Nation Music):
Guitarist, quintet includes trumpet, clarinet, cello, and drums.
Like the two previous volumes, this picks up a piece of modernist
classical music and reframes it as jazz -- the previous volumes
used Stravinsky and Messaien, this one goes after Charles Ives,
who patterned his own music on brass bands obliquely heard. The
indirection works nicely here.
- Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (2015
, Mark Perna Music): Alto saxophonist, not quite 70, his
discography goes back to 1976 but tails off after 1999 (several
featured spots, one album in 2005). Quartet with Eric Susoeff on
guitar, Mark Perna on bass and Vince Taglieri on drums -- surefire
material, bright, lovely.
- BassDrumBone: The Long Road (2013-16 ,
Auricle, 2CD): Long-running free jazz trio, first album together
recorded nearly 30 years ago, lineup on this seventh album the
same: Mark Helias (bass), Gerry Hemingway (drums), Ray Anderson
(trombone). Second disc is padded out with 31 minutes live. Studio
cuts include three cuts each with Jason Moran (piano) and Joe
Lovano (tenor sax), the latter making the bigger splash. Still
great to hear Anderson's trombone leads, but could be further
- Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (2015 ,
Origin): Tenor saxophonist from Houston, studied in New Orleans and
Florida, teaches at Broward College. Probably his debut, a lively
hard bop sextet with Josh Evans on trumpet, Michael Dease on trombone,
and Glenn Zaleski on piano, makes it seem easy.
- Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (2016, Herb Harris
Music): Mainstream trumpet player, originally from Miami, last time
tried his hand at a Lee Morgan tribute (BrotherLee Love), but
didn't really get the vibe right until now, with a superb hard bop
quintet. Pianist Kevin Hays is essential, tenor saxophonist Tim
Warfield mostly shades but delivers when he gets a solo shot. But
it's mostly the trumpet -- the fast ones grab you right away, the
ballads take a while for the slow burn to emerge.
- Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom
(2016, Not Two): Portuguese tenor saxophonist, always an imposing
figure in free jazz settings, with his most dependable group --
Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums. Three long
improv pieces, terrific all around, drummer especially.
- Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (2016 , Panorama):
Mainstream alto saxophonist, most often heard with Dave Stryker (who
usually gets top billing), but here takes center stage and is terrific
though sevel cuts, mostly burners aside from a solo "Body & Soul."
He switches to flute on the last two cuts and adds congas, nice but
less impressive. Joe Lovano joins in on three cuts.
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an
Ocean View (2016, Constant Sorrow): Opens with some of Lowe's
best alto sax, but often gives way to let the twin guitarists (Nels
Cline and Ray Suhy) shine. With Matthew Shipp (piano), Kevin Ray
(bass), Larry Feldman (violin, mandolin), and Carolyn Castellano
(drums). The song forms range from hymns to Hendrix, each with its
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn:
At Ibeam (2015 , Constant Sorrow, 2CD): The fifth (of
six so far) installment under this title, "a series of recordings based
on American song forms," something hardly no one has researched deeper
than alto-saxophonist Lowe. A disparate, sprawling set of works, with
two mid-sized groups and a number of guest spots -- hard to see how they
could all have fit into a single day of recording. Opens with a solo
piano piece by Loren Schoenberg, then another by Kelly Green -- the
first of several "Mary Lou Williams Variations." Then moves on to a
group with Kirk Knuffke (trumpet) and Paul Austerlitz (clarinet), later
to another with Lisa Parrott (baritone sax) and Larry Feldman (violin).
Not easy to follow, but even when you don't something liable to jump
out and grab you.
- Clay Giberson: Pastures (2015 , Origin):
Pianist, based in Portland, has five previous records plus four
by his group Upper Left Trio. Draws on a strong quartet here
with Drew Gress (bass), Matt Wilson (drums), and most valuable
player Donny McCaslin, whose tenor sax chops dominate everything.
Less so his flute and soprano, or the string quartet added on
- Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal
Existence (2015 , Origin): Alto saxophonist, from
northern Belgium, backed by bass and drums, Verbist the main writer
(5/10 compositions). Subtle, relaxed postbop, sometimes pushes not
out but in.
- Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (2016, Skirl):
Plays tenor sax and flute, here in a prickly trio with Matt Mitchell
on piano and John Hollenbeck on drums.
- Fredrik Nordström: Gentle Fire/Restless Dreams
(2016, Moserobie, 2CD):Tenor saxophonist from Sweden, look him
up and most likely you'll find a different person -- a heavy
metal guitarist with the same name. This one has a half-dozen
previous albums going back to 2000. Two albums here cut in the
same two-day session, with the same quartet: Jonas Östhom (piano),
Torbjörn Zetterberg (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums). Mixed with
the gentle stuff on one disc, the restless on the other. Latter
is better, of course, but I've played this enough I've also grown
quite fond of the former.
- Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the
Improv Trio Volume 1 (2016, Leo):Avant tenor saxophonist
from Brazil, celebrated twenty years of recording back in 2009-10
with six releases, and has duplicated that feat nearly every year
since. He released five records this spring (my top picks were
Soul and Blue), and now for the fall he's come out
with six volumes of Improv Trio -- one suspects too much
and too similar, but we'll see. Berger here plays piano, a steady
influence that mostly keeps the sax on track, even brings out a
touch of elegance.
- Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv
Trio Volume 2 (2016, Leo): Tenor sax, viola, drums. Maneri
is the wild card here, his microtonal meanderings sometimes lose me,
but in the end he provokes the saxophonist into upping his game.
- Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the
Improv Trio Volume 4 (2016, Leo): The bassist makes a difference
here, setting up a groove (or at least momentum) that keeps the sax man
on his toes, bobbing and weaving, never far from the edge. Moreover, he
can go loud without knocking the leader out, so he has no need to hold
back (as the pianists have done).
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the
Improv Trio Volume 5 (2016, Leo): Morris plays electric guitar,
somewhat inconspicuously poking around the edges, adding bits of color
and brightness. Another strong outing for the saxophonist.
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the
Improv Trio Volume 6 (2016, Leo): Recorded in July, probably
the same time as Volume 5, the difference here is that Morris
has switched from guitar to bass. As with Volume 4, this both
loosens up the saxophonist and lets him be fiercer or more eloquent
as the opportunity arises.
- Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (2016, Greenleaf Music):
Drummer from Texas, only his second headline album but side credits go
back to 1992, notably with saxophonists Fred Hess and J.D. Allen, and
more recently with Jim Snidero, Doug Webb, and trumpet master Dave
Douglas. This is another sax trio, with Jon Irabagon tugging him out
of the mainstream, and Yasushi Nakamura on bass.
- Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings
(2016, RareNoise): The former plays baritone and electric guitar, the
latter lap steel guitar, but Bernocchi is also credited with electronics,
which explains the percussion. The synthetic groove may be too regular
for jazz, but sets up a seductive ambience with the layered guitar.
- Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1:
Coming of Age (2016, self-released): The key here, of course,
is tenor saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, executive director of Live the
Spirit Residency, which runs after-hours jazz ed programs for Chicago
youth. They put together a group called the Young Masters Ensemble --
Isaiah Collier (tenor sax), Jeremiah Collier (drums), Alex Lombre
(piano), and James Wenzel (bass) -- and they're terrific even when
the saxes lay out for a blues vamp. And while I suspect Dawkins plays
most of the superb sax runs, they've all earned their group name.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of
Being (2015 , NoBusiness): Alto sax trio, drummer
Lambert is pretty much inseparable from the saxophonist, and is
joined here by Mazur on acoustic bass guitar. Carrier is impressive
as usual, but one hardly notices the others.
- Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart: The Crave (1994 ,
NoBusiness): Piano and tuba duets, the fine print reads "play the
music of Jelly Roll Morton and Dave Burrell." Three of each, but
Burrell was likely thinking of Morton when he wrote his. Indeed,
this set follows Burrell's 1991 album The Jelly Roll Joys,
and improves upon it, the not-so-secret ingredient Stewart's tuba.
- Albert Cirera/Hernâni Faustino/Gabriel Ferrandini/Agustí Fernández:
Before the Silence (2015 , NoBusiness): Tenor/soprano
saxophonist, based in Lisbon, backed by the bassist (Faustino) and
drummer (Ferrandini) from the RED Trio and avant-pianist Fernández.
Three long pieces (average 18 minutes), plus a brief coda. Best here
is the pianist -- I've mostly heard him in duos before, but he throws
himself into this with abandon, certainly helped by the rhythm section,
and the sax benefits as well.
- Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (2015 ,
RogueArt): Avant-trombonist, quintet adds Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax),
Dave Burrell (piano), William Parker (bass), and Gerald Cleaver
(drums), each adding something distinctive and remarkable to the
mix. Still, I always enjoy a good trombone lead, of which there
are many. Looks like this only came out on vinyl, so runs to a
respectable length (4 cuts, 43:40).
- Steve Swell/Gebhard Ullmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang:
The Chicago Plan (2015 , Clean Feed): Recorded in
Chicago, home of Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics) and Zerang (drums),
if not the front line (and composers) -- trombone and tenor sax/bass
clarinet. The trombone leads are bracing, but the others on their
own tend to melt together.
- Evan Parker/Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee: Seven Pieces: Live at
Willisau 1995 (1995 , Clean Feed): Three saxophonists --
tenor/soprano, alto/baritone, and alto/soprano + alto clarinet and
pocket trumpet -- although I wouldn't call them a sax choir: it's
not like three free improvisers are concerned much with harmony.
Still, it's rare when an all-sax record doesn't leave you wishing
for something more, and this previously unreleased tape is that.
- Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016 (1976-2016
, NoBusiness, 5CD): British avant-pianist, a Penguin Guide
favorite. I've heard very little aside from a couple of outstanding
1968-70 albums (Angle, The Day Will Come), but he's
still active in his 70s -- indeed, three-fifths of this solo piano
trove date from 2014 or later. That later material is interesting,
but the early discs -- especially the first from 1976-80 -- is more
like exciting. Includes a short booklet by Brian Morton.
- Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in
Copenhagen (2016, Not Two): The saxophonist backs a bit
off his usual full fury, giving the trombone a fighting chance --
something Swell makes the most of. And the drummer is always
masterful in this sort of company.
- Club D'Elf: Live at Club Helsinki (2012 ,
Face Pelt): Boston jazz collective, Brahim Fribgane (oud, voice,
percussion) gives them a North African air, Mike Rivard (bass,
sintir, bass kalimba) makes them even more other-worldly, and
ringer John Medeski (B3, various keyboards) joins in for this
extended Hudson, NY bar date.
- Randy Weston/African Rhythms: The African Nubian Suite
(2012 , African Rhythms, 2CD): Pianist, born in Brooklyn 86 years
before this was recorded but his parents came from Jamaica and he soon
developed a deep fascination with Africa and the spread of its culture
all around the world. Influenced by Duke Ellington, he's gone on to
write extended suites, but this is a live concert with various discrete
guest spots -- including pipa and balafon as well as trombone and Texas
tenor -- framed by Wayne Chandler's opening narration and Jayne Cortez's
closing poetry slam. Still, what elevates this from variety show is the
pianist's patter, not just introducing musicians but illuminating his
life's work and worldview.
- Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Sensations
of Tone (2016 , Intakt): Tenor sax trio, recorded in
Brooklyn but not Eskelin's usual New York Trio -- bassist Weber is
Swiss, drummer Griener German. Also not the usual fare as they mix
four old songs -- "Shreveport Stomp," "China Boy," "Moten Swing,"
and "Ain't Misbehavin'" -- in with four joint originals. The stomps
and swings are done with sly understatement, distance and affection --
I especially love the latter, instantly recognizable yet brand new.
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (2014 ,
Libra): Japanese pianist, has at least four iterations of her big
band named for cities she works in -- hitherto, the New York band,
with its surfeit of individual stars, has been most impressive,
but the ensemble work here is peerless, and the score is chock
full of brilliant ideas.
- Miguel Zenón: Típico (2016 , Miel Music):
Alto saxophonist, from Puerto Rico, teaches at New England Conservatory,
quickly established himself as one of his generation's top players.
Tenth album since 2002, many referring back to his Latin roots, as
title and cover do here -- but none of the instruments on the cover
exist in the album. Rather, he plays within the jazz tradition,
building on his long-running quartet -- Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans
Glawisching (bass), and Henry Cole (drums) -- and that frees him
up for some of his most dynamic playing in years.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space
for the Spirit (2014 , FMR): Alto sax/Chinese oboe, drums,
piano, recorded in St. Petersburg, a year after the same trio recorded
two volumes of The Russian Concerts. Sketchy, finds its own
beauty in chaos, and here and there erupts into something wonderful.
- Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (2016 , Thirsty
Ear): Piano trio with Michael Bisio (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker
(drums), follows a remarkably prolific run where we've heard Shipp
in many diverse contexts, and comes with (not his first) vow to give
up recording. Still very much on top of his game here.
- Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (2016 ,
Intakt): Piano/sax duets, Murray also playing bass clarinet. The pair
recorded a previous album in 1991, Blue Monk, long a personal
favorite, and they add another Monk piece here, along with seven
originals (Takase 4, Murray 3) which makes this a bit harder to fall
for, but the pianist is superb, and Murray is as awesome as ever.
- David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call
(2015 , Ropeadope): Trumpet player, a postbop figure the New
Jazz Composers Octet but a hard bopper with the Cookers, fourth album
with Point of Departure although the band has no constants other than
the leader, and the tenor sax (Myron Walden or JD Allen) and one of
the guitar slots (Travis Reuter or Nir Felder) are split here -- Ben
Eunson evidently plays throughout, and his blistering solo on the
opener sets the pace, which remains torrid throughout. In fact, front
cover is illustrated with guitar and trumpet, so that seems to be the
- Michel Lambert: Alom Mola (2016 , Jazz From Rant):
Canadian drummer, most often seen accompanying François Carrier, has
a handful of records on his own. This one veers toward classical with
its string quartet, but adds percussive roughness, lovely bits of piano
(Alexandre Grogg) or sax (Michel Côté), and an intriguing vocal by
- Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (2016 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): New York-based saxophonist, originally from
Massachusetts, plays alto sax, alto clarinet, clarinet, flute, and
ruri box here, leading a quartet with electric guitar (Greg Ruggiero),
acoustic bass (Chris Tordini), and drums (Tommy Crane). Nice tone and
- Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook
(2016 , GotMusic): Guitarist, did a previous album called A Very
Gypsy Christmas which suggests he's a Django Reinhardt acolyte. Group
revolves through four sessions, including bass, sometimes violin, plus up
to two more guitarists at any given time (four are credited, Howard Alden
is the one you probably know). Picks through more than a dozen great songs,
starting with "Lullaby of Birdland."
- The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]:
Prague After Dark (2016 , JMood): Piano trio, bassist
and drummer presumably picked up in Prague, although Uhlir came with
two songs. Mostly Magris originals, but covers from Herbie Nichols
and Don Pullen are telling, and add to a fine outing.
- Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (2015 ,
Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon, got my attention with
his 2004 album Mountains and Plains and hasn't let up since.
Duets with his drummer son bring his fierce creativity to the fore.
A bit of otherworldly wood flute too.
- Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies
(2016 , Shhpuma): Portuguese pianist, unconventional trio with
Jacinto on cello and both electronics. The music is "inspired" by Erik
Satie, performed on his 150th anniversary, which may be reflected in
its tight miniaturism, although its post-industrial aura is something
- CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (2016 . Clean Feed):
Quartet: Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Brandon Seabrook (electric guitar),
Tim Dahl (electric bass), Weasel Walter (drums). Basically post-rock,
post-industrial fusion, less harsh than some of Seabrook's own albums,
better beat too, and the sax sharpens the leads. Short at 29:01, but
makes up for that in intensity.
- Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (2016 ,
Clean Feed): Clarinet player, also credited with "radio, dictaphones,"
leads trio with Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass, objects) and Sylvain
Darrifourcq (drums, percussion, zither). Four pieces: "No Border,"
"No Logo," "No God," "No Fear" -- a remarkable melange of sounds,
though it takes some focus to catch them all.
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow
(2016 , Hot Cup): Since Peter Evans left bassist Moppa Elliott's
"bebop terrorist" quintet, their mischief has gravitating toward pre-bop
(one hesitates to call it trad) jazz. And they've been picking up extra
members: Ron Stabinsky at piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone, Brandon
Seabrook on banjo and electronics, and most notably Steven Bernstein on
trumpet (with or without slide).
- Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hand (2016 , Cortez
Sound, 2CD): One of the most prolific jazz pianists of the past two
decades, lately it seems her piano has receded into her explosive
big bands and odder avant-folk projects (where, among other things,
she's distinguished herself on accordion). But this solo set -- two
discs but only 87:33 -- is less a return to basics than a maturing
reflection on her craft: where she used to get our attention with
pyrotechnics, here she favors richly detailed melodies, and that
works as well.
- Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (2016 ,
self-released): Tenor saxophonist, has made a strong impression since
his 2008 debut, leads a two-horn quartet here with Jason Palmer getting
a lot of lead space on trumpet. Covers from Dylan, Sam Cooke, George
Harrison and Bruce Hornsby, along with originals with titles like "We
Have a Dream," "Women's March," "The 99 Percent," "Broken Treaties."
- Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (2016 ,
self-released): Guitarist Dan Phillips composed all the pieces here,
but the edge comes from Mars Williams on saxophones and Jeb Bishop
on trombone. They can crack up, loose, or any which way.
- Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (2016 , Loyal Label):
Norwegian Bassist, based in New York, has released four Overseas
albums with a core group of saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Jacob
Sacks, joined here (as on Overseas IV by Brandon Seabrook (guitar)
and Kenny Wolleson (drums). Dense and intricate, the guitar and sax
blunted and folded back into the group, where the focus is more on
sustaining rhythmic force.
- Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (2016 ,
Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, currently in Berlin, released a
record called Azul in 1995 and kept the name. Group is a trio
with Frank Möbus on guitar and Jim Black on drums.
- Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (2016 , Clean Feed):
Avant-jazz sax trio, the leader alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel
(Canadian, Belgian roots, based in Berlin), with Roland Fidezius
(electric bass, effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums). The bass
gives this a certain rockish foundation, which the saxophonist
regularly blows up.
- Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (2016 , Clean Feed):
Recorded in Portugal but mixed in Norway, don't know anything about
the trio -- Bostjan Simon (sax, electronics), Stephan Meidell (guitar,
bass, percussion, electronics), and Luis Candelas (drums, percussion) --
other than that their 2014 debut blew me away. They describe this one
as "a step forward and a dive inward," which is to say the deep sound
of their dense fusion takes much longer to sink in.
- Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows
(2016 , self-released, 2CD): Drummer, staged a monumental work
here, lots of strings and gongs and a soprano singer, Areni Agbabian,
and other sampled voices, all things I normally detest, yet it's all
quite lovely and unaccountably moving -- well, maybe if I figured out
the packaging and followed the text and all that . . .
- Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger
(2016 , Meta/M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, mostly hand
drums here, with two other drummers (Hamid Drake and James Hurt) in
the ensemble, along with horns -- Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn)
and Ralph M. Jones (flutes, clarinets, saxes) -- keyboards, guitar,
and electric bass. Strong suit is rhythm, colors changing from darker
- Doug MacDonald: Jazz Marathon 2 (2016 , BluJazz,
2CD): Guitarist, based in Los Angeles where this
was recorded live, has a dozen albums going back to 1981 -- no evidence
of a Jazz Marathon 1. Horn players are mostly names I recognize --
sax section is Lanny Morgan, Pete Christleib, and/or Ricky Woodard (some
churn from cut to cut). Compositions mostly date from the 1950s, roughly
Charlie Parker to Sonny Rollins, with one original (MacDonald's "Bossa
Don") and an Ellington medley on the margins. So nothing new here, but
it's all pretty delightful.
- Rocco John: Peace and Love (2014 , Unseen Rain):
Alto saxophonist (also soprano and piano) Rocco John Iacovone, leading
a group he calls the Improvisational Composers Ensemble in a tribute to
Will Connell (1938-2014), a saxophonist with a slim discography (most
notably the 1981/83 Commitment recordings with William Parker) who
"lived his music." Group is an octet with Ras Moshe Burnett (bells,
tenor sax, flute), violin, bass clarinet, guitar, double bass, drums,
and percussion. Group hits hard, but is equally interesting when they
spread out, chill out, or aim for the heavens.
- Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors
(2016 , Cuneiform): Since 1998 Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics) and
Chad Taylor (drums) have led various Chicago Underground duos, trios, and
quartets, with Mazurek later taking his Underground concept to Sao Paulo.
Here the Chicago duo visits London, meeting up with Alexander Hawkins
(piano) and John Edwards (bass) -- both are very active, bringing a lot of
heat and dynamism to the cooler orientation of the Chicagoans.
- The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to
Me: The Micros Play the Blues (2016 , Cuneiform): Group
led by Philip Johnston (soprano sax) and Joel Forrester (piano), dates
back to 1981 with a break in the 1990s, the addition of tenor saxophonist
Michael Hashim the key move to the reunion. Closes with a Joe Liggins
song (Dave Sewelson sings), the other dozen tracks split even among the
leaders (although Forrester quotes more than the title from "Silent
Night" -- nearly a deal breaker for me, until it isn't). Blues, maybe,
but the key thing here is swing, which they do not for nostalgia but
because it feels right.
- Trio 3: Visiting Texture (2016 , Intakt):
Andrew Cyrille (drums), Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (alto
saxophone). Thirteenth album together since 1997, recently adding
various guests but this is back to basics, nothing fancy but
remarkable craft within the free jazz trade.
- Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (2016 ,
Intakt): Swiss group, no one named Heinz or Herbert -- two brothers,
Dominic and Ramon Landolt, on guitar and keyboards, both cranked up
with "effects," and drummer Mario Hänni. Quieter stretches resemble
piano trio, but more often their electronics move them into new and
surprising sonic terrains -- though nothing I would call fusion. I
wound up spending a lot of time on this, torn between the suspicion
that what they're doing is marginal and the certainty that it's unique.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1:
Titan (2016 , Leo): The first of a trove of seven separately
issued discs pairing the Brazilian avant saxophonist with the American
pianist -- frequent collaborators since 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz --
with various rhythm sections. Seems like the ideal might be to listen to
all of them then start to make whatever marginal distinctions I can find,
but for practical purposes all I can do is take them one-by-one and hope
I don't get too lost. This one is a trio with William Parker, who in
Perelman's 2016 The Art of the Improv Trio lifted Volume 4.
He gets this series off to a strong start, too.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2:
Tarvos (2016 , Leo): Third member here is veteran drummer
Bobby Kapp, who belatedly came to my attention as Shipp's partner on
their 2016 duo album, Cactus. The drummer kicks up the energy
level here, and the saxophonist responds accordingly.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3:
Pandora (2016 , Leo): Quartet here, with William Parker on
bass and Whit Dickey on drums, a piano trio that backed David S. Ware
back in the early 1990s. This isn't as exciting: Perelman would rather
work his way around the edges than channel the Holy Ghost, so the group
doesn't push him. Still fascinating to follow.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4:
Hyperion (2016 , Leo): Trio, with Michael Bisio -- another
frequent Shipp collaborator -- on bass. I was thrown a bit early on by
the high notes -- Perelman may play more in the top end of the tenor sax
than anyone else -- but they settle down, and midway take a remarkable
run. Not sure this counts as a slip, but it doesn't add much.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5:
Rhea (2016 , Leo): Quartet with Shipp's usual trio mates
Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. As with the other sessions, the pieces
are simply numbered, and it's "Part 6" that puts this over the top with
its exhilarating tornado of sound -- everything you could hope for in
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6:
Saturn (2016 , Leo): Just a duo, the only such volume in
the series. Gives the pianist the chance for a few solos, something he's
done little of so far, but still the focus is on the tenor sax, aiming
this time more to woo than to overpower.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7:
Dione (2016 , Leo): Trio with Andrew Cyrille on drums, a
stellar choice although as always it's the saxophonist who calls the
shots and sets the pace. Could be fatigue setting in -- no idea if these
were released in the order recorded, as all are listed as October 2016.
Or could just be that the reviewer is tiring (although the moment I
wrote that the record entered a particularly interesting passage).
- Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes
(2016 , Malcom): Group's first (2016) album seemed to be credited
to Live the Spirit Residency, also on the cover here followed by
"Presents # 2" but this is a more sensible credit (of course, I could
have followed he cover and added "featuring Vijay Iyer"). Has a rough
patch I don't much care for, but coheres more often than not.
- Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (2016
, Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, long based
in New York though I'm guessing he ultimately hails from Cleveland,
as his trio mates -- Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on
drums -- are Detroit natives. He's always struck me as a fancy
post-bop guy, but this is very down-to-basics.
- Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 ,
SteepleChase): Jazz singer, describes herself as "sultry," graduated
from New England Conservatory, has one previous album. Nice combo
here with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor sax), Carmen
Staaf (piano), Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Mostly original
pieces, or words she added to label legends Dexter Gordon and Duke
- Jared Sims: Change of Address (2017, Ropeadope):
Baritone saxophonist, leads a quintet balanced on Nina Ott's organ,
with guitar, bass, and drums -- a funky soul jazz update with
distinguished by the deep breathing of the big horn.
- Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (2016
, Cadence Jazz): Cover suggests title is PausaLive,
but spine says otherwise. Local Buffalo musicians, only a couple
familiar to me -- chiefly pianist Michael McNeill -- but they
form a remarkable large free jazz ensemble, with standout solos
on sax, trumpet, and drums, and brisk and energetic group improv
that never breaks down.
- Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (2016 ,
Biophilia): Bassist, born in Malaysia, raised in Australia, previously
recorded three good albums as Linda Oh plus side credits with Dave
Douglas and others. Group features Ben Wendel on sax, plus Matthew
Stevens on guitar and Justin Brown on drums, joined by Fabian Almazan
(piano on 3 cuts) and Minji Park (janggu & kkwaenggwari on 1).
Another solid record, especially when I focus on the bassist. New
label, has come up with a packaging gimmick that unfolds into a
large many-faceted surface, roughly the equivalent of a 16-page
booklet turned into crumpled chaos -- really awful. But the music:
- Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (2016 , Challenge):
Piano trio, from Australia, fourth album, principally Sean Foran
(piano) and John Parker (drums) plus new bassist Samuel Vincent,
all also credited with electronics, helping their bounce and
- Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic
(2015 , NoBusiness): Tenor sax trio from Portugal, avant, all
joint improv but bassist got his name listed first -- alphabetical,
I presume, but he opens with an arco solo and makes himself heard
throughout. Amado, of course, is terrific. He's had quite a run
since 2010's Searching for Adam.
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (2016 , Ocean Blue
Tear Music): Pianist, born in Kobe, Japan, studied at Berklee, has
six albums. This a trio with Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding
on drums. Four originals, covers of Marc Johnson (2), Joni Mitchell,
and "Dear Prudence." Runs 72 minutes but is delightful all the way
- Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (2015 , Euonymous):
Violinist, born in Waukegan, IL but developed an interest in Chinese
classical music, and has played that off against avant jazz. Quintet,
with Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Forbes (piano), Ken Filiano (bass),
and Andrew Drury (drums), a group so stellar he has trouble getting
out in front -- the trombonist is especially impressive.
- Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin,
Volume 1 (2017, Accurate): Trumpet player-vocalist, fourth
album, all songs by pianist Bushkin (1916-2004), bracketed by stories
about Bushkin from Frank Sinatra and Red Buttons, plus a snippet of
Bushkin's own piano, all very nicely done -- mostly smooth crooning,
but outliers include "Hot Time in the Town of Berlin," "Boogie Woogie
Blue Plate," and "Man Here Plays Fine Piano."
- Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (2016 ,
NoBusiness): Piano and drums, released as limited edition vinyl. The
pianist, from Germany, has several previous albums, going back at
least to 1986. The drummer, American, has led several "Po" bands
and appeared on dozens more. Pretty sharp all around.
- Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs)
(2017, Rare Noise): Trumpet player, born in Saigon during the war,
now based in New York, with a dozen albums since 1996. No idea of
his relationship to Gibbs, who toiled in obscurity since 1970 but
came up with two good 2015 albums on Cuneiform with the NDR Bigband.
One of those Gibbs albums was Play a Bill Frisell Set List,
and the guitarist is a major addition here -- along with Luke Bergman
on bass and Ted Poor on drums.
- Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton
Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (2013 ,
NoBusiness): Piccolo trumpet, tenor/soprano sax, piano-bass-drums, two
improv split into two parts. Some dead spots, or maybe just ambient
noise, but Butcher has strong moments, and when things pick up it's
usually the French pianist at the center.
- Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eldh/Wanja Slavin/Peter
Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (2016 , Intakt):
In my unpacking, I missed the title (going with the group name),
and misspelled bassist Eldh's name. Same quartet has a 2015 album
named Amok Amor, so this is one of those groups. All four
members contribute songs (3-2-1-3, although it was 3-4.5-2.5-0 last
time; I filed under drummer Lillinger, but Discogs lists Eldh
first on the previous album). Slavin plays sax, Evans trumpet --
strongest showing I've heard by him since he left MOPDTK.
- Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond
(2016 , Intakt): Sax-bass-drums trio, the leader playing
soprano, alto and tenor, and writing 7 (of 9) pieces (bassist Guy
one, plus one by Michael Griener).
- Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]:
The New National Anthem (2015 , Greenleaf Music):
Pianoless quartet, the brothers playing clarinet/sax and drums,
Swallow electric bass, the leader trumpet. The title and two other
tunes come from Carla Bley -- the album's most striking pieces --
plus one each by Swallow and Chet Doxas, the title tune bracketed
by the leader's "Americano." Full of remarkable passages, but
after many plays I'm still finding it a bit too solemn.
- Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999
, NoBusiness): Trombone and drums duo. Rutherford (1940-2007)
was one of the most important avant-trombonists in Europe, a pioneer
in the rare art of solo trombone. This is as fine a showcase for him
as I've heard, but it's the drummer -- previously unknown to me --
who put this archive tape over the top.
- Quinsin Nachoff/Mark Helias/Dan Weiss: Quinsin Nachoff's
Ethereal Trio (2016 , Whirlwind): Tenor saxophonist,
several albums since 2006, this sax-bass-drums trio by far his best.
Original pieces, mostly mid-tempo, nothing fancy or frantic, but
it holds together superbly.
- Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House
(2016 , Whaling City Sound): Vibraphonist, born 1924, cut his
first record in 1949 (or 1951), led an outfit he called the Dream Band
circa 1959 (his son, drummer Gerry Gibbs, present here, has his own
Dream Band). First record since 2006, cut in his living room with John
Campbell on piano and Mike Gurrola on bass, mostly swing and early bop
standards, and indeed they are delightful.
- John Stein/Dave Zinno: Wood and Strings (2016 ,
Whaling City Sound): Guitar and bass duets, mostly standards (4 Stein
pieces, 1 Zinno, 9 others, with Sam Rivers the outlier). Very intimate,
the bass resonant, the guitar light as a feather.
- Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature
(2016 , Truth Revolution): Alto/soprano saxophonist, second album.
Nonet arrays trumpet, trombone, four saxes, and piano-bass-drums for
rich and varied textures, occasionally dipping into Civil War-vintage
tunes -- the title draws on Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address.
- Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (2016
, Pi): Alto saxophonist, thirty-some albums since 1985, has
broken new ground several times and this is probably another --
I've played it many times, never really making up my mind as it
keeps shifting in unexpected directions. Large group with a chamber
jazz air -- only has percussion on 5/9 tracks, never significant,
although there are many sources of rhythm -- three reeds, trumpet,
violin, piano, bass, with Jen Shyu's voice shadowing.
- Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Compassion: The Music of John
Coltrane (2007 , Resonance): Two major tenor saxophonists,
Liebman also playing soprano, Lovano working in alto clarinet and
Scottish flute, backed by Phil Markowitz (piano), Ron McClure (bass),
and Billy Hart (drums). Liebman has released a number of Coltrane
tributes over the years, including a blast through Ascension,
so this seems to be his thing.
- Kate Gentile: Mannequins (2016 , Skirl):
Drummer, also plays vibes, from Buffalo, based in New York since
2011. First album, quartet with Jeremy Viner (clarinet/tenor sax),
Matt Mitchell (piano/electronics), and Adam Hopkins (bass). All
original material by Gentile, interesting mix of rhythmic vamps
and free jazz, both good for the pianist. Runs long: 72 minutes.
- Burning Ghosts: Reclamation (2017, Tzadik): LA-based
jazz-metal fusion quartet, second album: Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet),
Jake Vossler (guitar), Richard Giddens (bass), Aaron McLendon (drums).
Trumpet player is terrific -- he's building a very interesting career,
mostly behind group aliases but his Astral Transference and Seven
Dreams is worth searching for. The metal offers some solid crunch
but not a lot of flash.
- Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite (2016 ,
Clean Feed): Guitarist from Slovenia, has consistently produced
interesting records. Wrote eight pieces named for colors, and brought
this sextet for Jazz Festival Ljubljana, with "two of my favorite
drummers" (Roberto Dani and Christian Lillinger), Pascal Niggenkemper
(bass), Achille Succi (bass clarinet), and Julian Arguelles (tenor
and soprano sax). The horns contrast well, the sharper sax piercing
the airier bass clarinet, most impressively when they crank it up.
- Mike Reed: Flesh & Bone (2016 , 482 Music):
Chicago drummer, has done a heroic job of absorbing and furthering
the avant-jazz tradition of his city, usually attributing his work
to two groups rather than appearing on the masthead alone. Of course,
he's not alone: the credits are structured as a two-sax quartet (Greg
Ward and Tim Haldenam), with Jason Roebke on bass, but two more horns
spread out the sound: Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Ben Lamar Gay
on cornet. Reed refers to this as "my dream-like reflections" and
that's the weak spot, when it gets too dreamy. But things wake up
with Marvin Tate's spoken word rants and ravings -- I sneered at
first, then found them interesting, and ultimately decided they
were an intrinsic part of the album's musicality.
- Silke Eberhard Trio: The Being Inn (2016 ,
Intakt): Plays alto sax and bass clarinet (here), based in Berlin,
has done tributes to Dolphy, Coleman, and Mingus; credited with
writing everything here, although I hear echoes of Ornette. Trio
with Jan Roder (bass) and Kay Lubke (drums).
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness
(2015 , FMR): Leader plays alto sax and Chinese oboe, accompanied
by drums and acoustic bass guitar. Parts are a bit harsher than I'd
like, but I love Carrier's deep, searching runs, and this is another
good setting for them.
- Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (2017,
Free Rads): Houston group, "a horn-driven instrumental dance band
with a commitment to peace and justice" -- I recognized the group
name from chemistry, but sure, politics works too. Took no more
than five seconds for me to realize they were right up my alley.
Turns out they've been around for a couple decades, recording
The Rising Tide Sinks All in 1998 and five albums since.
Nine-piece group, three saxes, three brass (including sousaphone),
guitar, bass, drums, but 15 more "guests" joined in these sessions,
including two elder vibraphonists whose credits include Benny
Goodman and Sun Ra (author of their one cover). For a first
approximation, imagine a cross between an anarchist collective
like Club D'Elf and a New Orleans brass band. Clearly, a SFFR.
- Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (2015 , Skirl):
Pianist, born in Switzerland, based in New York since 2008, second
album, both quartets, this one distinguished by alto saxophonist
Michaël Attias, whose runs keep slipping out of the grooves.
- Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (2015 , Creative Sources):
German pianist, real name seems to be Oliver Schwerdt -- has a previous
trio album with Axel Dörner and Christian Lillinger and a couple albums
as Schwerdt. This is solo, short (31:46), named for two of the three
pieces (the other is the 2:21 "Farewell"). Impressive, more for the
rumble he generates than for the runs.
- Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (2017, Delmark):
From Chicago, plays bass clarinet, quartet adds Keefe Jackson
(tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Joshua Abrams (bass), and Tom
Rainey (drums) -- terrific group, with Jackson complementing
the leader's airy sound. Three originals, covers from Bird and
Monk, two from Lennie Tristano and another from Warne Marsh,
plus one called "Roused About" that I assume honors Charlie.
- Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (2016 , Pi):
Drummer, sometime pianist -- he played a big chunk of his 2007 2CD
album That/Not -- I've even seen him lately on trombone,
but here just drums. I mention this because this strikes me as
very much a piano album (Corey Smythe), the percussion and bass
(Chris Tordini) often all but vanishing. Sometimes the piano,
too. I'd prefer something more in-your-face, and there's some
of that here too.
- Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson
(2017, Outline, 2CD): Soprano saxophonist. Group: Dawn Clement (piano),
Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums), plus Deborah Rush reading
Dickinson poetry on the second disc only. I'm inclined to favor the
music-only disc, but while I rarely register the words, somehow the
music on the second disc seems even more vibrant.
- Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (2017, Whaling
City Sound): Alto saxophonist, from Massachusetts, has at least one
previous record. Quartet with piano, electric bass, and drums (Steve
Langone). Wrote three originals (of 12 songs), covers ranging from
Horace Silver to Michael Jackson. Fairly mainstream, but rich tone
and easy swing.
- Omri Ziegele: Where's Africa: Going South (2016 ,
Intakt): Credit could be parsed several ways, including mention of Yves
Theiler (keyboards, reed organ, melodica, vocals) and Dario Sisera
(percussion, drums). Where's Africa is the name of a 2005
album -- a duo with pianist Irène Schweizer -- and was also used in
the credit of a 2010 trio (with Schweizer and Makaya Ntshoko). Ziegele
is Swiss, plays alto sax, Uzbek flute, and is credited with vocals.
Not sure who sings (weirdly) and who raps (impressively), affectations
which annoyed me at first as they interfered with the wonderful Township
- Fred Hersch: Open Book (2016-17 , Palmetto):
Solo piano. Three originals plus pieces from Monk, Jobim, Benny
Golson, and Billy Joel. He reached a new plateau with 2014's
Floating, and continues at that level, thoughtful, serene,
touch as deft as ever.
- Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (2011 ,
Hatology): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous
records. MVP here is guitarist Joe Morris, invariably the one you
wind up focusing on. With Giacomo Merega (electric bass) and Jason
Nazary (drums & electronics).
- Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith: A Reunion Tribute
to Erroll Garner (2017, Blujazz): Bassist and drummer in
pianist Garner's 1970-77 quartet -- the fourth player was congalero
José Mangual, replaced here by Noel Quintana. The songbook includes
Garner's "Misty" and "Gemini" but mostly features standards, opening
with "Caravan." The record is pure delight, but you have to dig deep
into the book to discover the all-important pianist: Geri Allen. Her
recent death makes this even more poignant.
- Dave Rempis: Lattice (2017, Aerophonic): Saxophonist
from Chicago tries a solo album, playing alto, tenor, and baritone.
Cherry-picked together from four spots, with two covers among the six
cuts (Billy Strayhorn, Eric Dolphy), keeps it tight and thoughtful,
minimizing the usual solo sax pitfalls.
- The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cochonnerie (2015
, Aerophonic): So-named for two drummers, Tim Daisy and Frank
Rosaly, joined by Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and leader Dave
Rempis on alto/tenor/baritone sax, who started stealing scenes in
the Vandermark 5. Sixth group album, all impressive, this one all
the more together.
- Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (2017, Firehouse 12):
Looks more like a double trio, with Ralph Alessi and Tyler Ho Bynum
on trumpet/cornet, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook on guitar,
Gerald Cleaver and Fujiwara on drums. I haven't quite figured out
the parts where the leader talks about music direction, but I'm
quite taken by how they all bounce off one another.
- Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (2016 , Creative
Nation Music): Guitarist, Discogs only lists four albums since 1998
but I've heard many more than that, most quite interesting. This
one is solo, deftly picked: four originals, two from kindred spirit,
the late Garrison Fewell, five more from the tradition (Oliver, Monk,
Dolphy) and beyond.
- Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn
(2017, Saponegro): Trumpet player from Peru, sextet includes Laura
Andrea Leguia (tenor/soprano sax), Yuri Juarez (guitar), Freddy
Lobatón (cajon), Hugo Alcazar (drums), and normally a bassist (John
Benitez or Mario Cuba, but I don't see either in the credits, just
a couple guest spots for keyboardist Russell Ferrante and one for
guitarist Jocho Velásquez). Comes out hard on the beat, then sashays
through several parts of "The Brooklyn Suite," with various interludes
including a marvelous snatch of "Summertime."
- Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two
(2017, A.T. Music): Standards singer. Pianists Mike Garson, Tamir
Handelman, and Christian Jacob get cover credit, but the ever so
tasteful backup musicians deserve more credit, and when you dig
into the fine print you find folks like Chuck Berghofer (bass),
Luis Conte (percussion), Hendrik Meurkens (harmonica), Carol
Robbins (harp), and most notably Ricky Woodard (tenor sax). They
aim for a midnight smolder, and the singer meets them there.
- Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in
Tempo (2017, Creative Nation Music): Previous volumes have
picked on modern classical music (Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ives), so
why not Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, widely cited as the great
composer of "America's classical music"? Quintet: guitar, trumpet,
clarinet, cello, drums. Ellington's piece, a tribute to his mother
from 1935, was originally spread out over four 10-inch sides, but
still only came to 12 minutes. Hofbauer picks it apart, extending
his deconstruction to 24:50, but the theme comes through as elegant
- Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (2015 ,
Intakt): Swiss pianist, one of the greats, in a duo with a notable
American drummer -- half-dozen albums as a leader, well over 100
side-credits (John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, John Abercrombie,
Enrico Pieranunzi, Laurie Anderson, many more). She has a whole
series of piano-drum duos, and most are extraordinary (especially
those with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre). So I kept expecting this
to take off, but it never quite does.
- Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (2017, Intakt):
Drummer, leads a conventionally shaped all-star quintet: Ralph Alessi
(trumpet), Ingrid Laubrock (sax), Kris Davis (piano), and Drew Gress
(bass). Six standards, one joint credit. Aptly titled: seems to be
all about flow, gently even-tempered even working against gravity.
- Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (2017, Songlines):
Guitarist, also plays oud, based in Vancouver, has put together an
impressive string of records since 2006. No bassist here, so he
tends to melt into that role here, especially as his stars -- Oscar
Noriega (alto sax/clarinets) and Russ Lossing (piano/Rhodes) -- bull
their way to the front. With Satoshi Takeishi on drums.
- Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (2017, Creative Nation Music):
Drummer, has a previous duo album with bassist Tony Leva, expanding that
here by adding Tod Brunel on clarinets/soprano sax and Eric Hofbauer on
guitar -- the part I noticed first. All originals by Jack, stretched out
nicely with increasingly strong clarinet.
- Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (2014 , TUM): Group
effort, Henry Kaiser making me think of Yo! Miles!, but he's only
one of four guitarists, and Smith is looking to take their electric
post-funk into places Miles Davis never imagined: all Smith originals,
all but the title "love song" namechecking legends: Ornette Coleman,
John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. With Bill
Laswell on electric bass (and mixing), Pheroan akLaff on drums, and
Adam Rudolph on percussion.
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (2017,
Hot Cup): Bassist Moppa Elliott's group vehicle, named after his
first (and only non-solo) album, made their mark as a pianoless
quartet of "bebop terrorists," blowing up themes and styles from
the '50s and '60s, but they lost trumpet player Peter Evans in
2013, replacing him with pianist Ron Stabowsky, and now saxophonist
Jon Irabagon has dropped out, transforming them into a piano trio.
Stabowsky plays heroically here, and Elliott's tunes are as vital
as ever, that's a big change (actually I mean loss) to process.
- Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]:
Asteroidea (2015 , Intakt): Bass-piano-drums trio,
the bassist getting a solo intro to kick things off, elsewhere the
pianist playing soft rhythmic figures behind the bass. Fascinating
there, even more so when Davis jumps out front, bringing the drums
- Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima
(2017, self-released): The alto saxophonist represents India (he
was actually born in Italy, but his parents had previously become
US citizens, so his Indian heritage is something he's picked up
over the years). Guitarist Rez Abbasi was born in Pakistan, but
has been an American nearly as long. The third member is drummer
Dan Weiss, from Tenafly, NJ, who also plays tabla, offering the
most authentic Indo-Pak spicing, although the aromas whiff in and
out, and Mahanthappa's sax is as fluid as ever.
- Corey Dennison Band: Night After Night (2017, Delmark):
Bluesman, plays guitar and sings, born white in Chattanooga, "immediately
felt a strong connection to Soul music," moved to Chicago and fit right
in. First half is perfectly respectable Chicago blues, second nudges its
way into respectful soul, losing a step but relishing it.
- Ton-Klami [Midori Takada/Kang Tae Hwan/Masahiko Satoh]: Prophecy
of Nue (1995 , NoBusiness): Marimba/percussion, alto sax, and
piano. Group formed 1991, had two albums 1993-95. Satoh has a substantial
discography (73 items in Discogs; Hwan 11, Takada 4). Rolling percussion
with drone is the theme, but the variations only start there.
- Roberto Magris Sextet: Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz
Gallery (2016 , JMood): Italian pianist, has gone
out of his way to send me records so I've heard more than Discogs
lists. Vigorous postbop with plenty of Latin tinge, as much in
the horns -- Brian Lynch on trumpet and Jonathan Gomez on tenor
sax -- as in Murph Aucamp's congas.
- Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives
(2016-17 , Black Earth Music): Flute player, still calls her band
Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, but that name gives way on cover
and spine for spoken word artist Madhubuti, whose poetry spans the gamut
of black American experience. Deep, and the band keeps it percolating,
with Pharez Whitted on trumpet, a violin-violin-cello-bass string section,
drums plus percussion.
- Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (2017, ITI): Pianist,
based in New York, first album, a trio with Hide Tanaka on bass and
Fukushi Tainaka on drums -- his website's upcoming shows list includes
quartets and quintets led by Tainaka. One original, standards include
"Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as well as bop
standards by Hank Mobley, Hank Jones, and Bud Powell. Expertly,
- Richie Cole: Latin Lover (2017, RCP): Alto saxophonist,
cut a record called Alto Madness in 1977 and played up the madman
theme for many years, then seemed to disappear, but came back with a
strong "Ballads and Love Songs" album in 2016. He doesn't go overboard
on his Latin twist album -- guest castanets on one song but otherwise
no extra percussion or specialists. Four originals (two with "Breeze"
in the title), more standards than trad Latin pieces, but he has fun
working on his tinge, and his alto is as lovely as ever.
- ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (2015 , Kopasetic):
Gress is a well-known, well-regarded, relatively mainstream bassist, and
no doubt helps out here (he even contributes 4/9 songs), but bass tends
to sink into the background, and he's no exception. Rather, what we have
is a Swedish tenor sax-piano-drums trio (Henrik Frisk, Maggi Olin, Peter
Nilsson), with Frisk and Olin splitting the other songs 3-2, and the sax
sounding especially luscious.
- Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano:
Embrace (2017, RareNoise): Trombone-piano-bass trio plus
singer, one of the most distinctive ones working today if not always
one of the easiest to listen to. In some ways this recalls Rudd's
mid-1970s work with Sheila Jordan -- less swing, the pianist a bit
more ornate. Victor is especially striking on songs that don't tempt
her to scat or vocalise, like "Can't We Be Friends" and "House of
the Rising Sun," but she's pretty impressive traipsing over Mingus
and Monk. The trombone isn't exactly lovely, but so full of soul it
can't be the work of anyone else.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Out of Silence
(2015 , FMR): Canadians, alto sax-drums duets, long-time
collaborators, working live in London, they must have a dozen
of more/less equivalent albums by now, especially if you count
the ones with a guest pianist. Still, they all sound great to me,
the only way this is not exceptional.
- Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman (2017, Intakt): Translates
as Disappointment, a German group, based in Berlin, first recorded in
1995, with Axel Dörner on trumpet, Rudi Mahall on bass clarinet, and
a shifting cast at bass and drums -- currently Jan Roder and Michael
Griener, plus new this time out Christof Thewes on trombone. All
original material, although their roots as a Monk tribute band --
tapped by Alexander von Schlippenbach for Monk's Casino --
show through in their irrepressible bounce and quirk.
- Liebman/Murley Quartet: Live at U of T (2017, U of T
Jazz): Two saxophonists, both play soprano and tenor, Dave Liebman
and Mike Morley, the latter teaches at University of Toronto where
the former is a visiting professor. Backed by bass and drums, also
faculty. Often terrific.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp:
Heptagon (2017, Leo): Tenor sax backed by piano-bass-drums: Shipp has been a nearly
constant companion of late, with the pair releasing seven volumes of The
Art of Perelman-Shipp back in March. The best one then was a quartet
with Shipp's everyday trio (Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey), but Shipp's
played even more with Parker and brought Kapp back from obscurity for a
superb duo in 2016 (Cactus; Kapp first made his mark with the other
great avant-garde saxophonist from South America, the late Gato Barbieri).
Superb all around.
- Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley/Brandon Lopez/Gerald Cleaver:
Octagon (2017, Leo): A rare "pianoless quartet" album, the two horns (tenor sax
and trumpet) freewheeling against bass and drums, which help steady the
rhythm and fill out harmonically -- chemistry that works admirably.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Joe Hertenstein: Scalene
(2017, Leo): Tenor sax with piano and drums. Not sure if the drummer,
a German in New York with Jörg his given first anme, has ever played
in this company before, but he keeps up as the leaders knock out some
of their fastest and most furious runs.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Jeff Cosgrove: Live in Baltimore
(2017, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, and drums, a live set (the night's second,
as it were) cut within weeks of his latest binge of studio albums. No
covers, no songs, just a straight 51:00 improv, roughly equivalent to
most of this year's extensive series of Perelman-Shipp collaborations.
Of course, always nice to have a drummer on hand.
- Vinny Golia Wind Quartet: Live at the Century City Playhouse:
Los Angeles, 1979 (1979 , Dark Tree): Four horns, nothing
more, an experiment at the time when sax quartets were just emerging,
but half brass (Bobby Bradford on cornet, Glenn Ferris on trombone), the
other half reeds (John Carter on clarinet, Golia just credited with
- Kris Davis & Craig Taborn: Octopus (2016 ,
Pyroclastic): Piano duets, two of the most accomplished pianists
of their generation(s) -- Davis b. 1980, Taborn b. 1970 -- selected
from three concerts. Not normally my thing, but remarkable all the
- Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk Blue (2017 ,
self-released): Organ player, the fifth of his Organ Monk
titles, returning to trio format after his more expansive (and
trans-Monkish) Breathe Suite. I've always regarded his
albums as a clever gimmick, but he gets more out of less here
than I imagined possible. Obvious credit goes to guitarist Marc
Ribot, but the organ continues to do the heavy lifting, gliding
in and out of recognizable Monk, funk, and soul.
- Steve Slagle: Dedication (2017 , Panorama):
Alto saxophonist, mainstream with terrific tone and poise, also
plays soprano on one cut and flute on another, backed by piano trio
(Lawrence Fields, Scott Colley, Bill Stewart), Roman Diaz's congas
on five cuts, and long-time collaborator, guitarist Dave Stryker,
- Danny Fox Trio: The Great Nostalgist (2016 ,
Hot Cup): Pianist, based in New York, has a couple previous albums,
mostly trios like this one with Chris van Voorst van Beest (bass)
and Max Goldman (drums).
- Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: D'Agala (2017 , Intakt):
Swiss pianist, based in New York; following AllMusic I filed her under
Avant-Garde -- an early album was titled Music for Barrel Organ,
Piano, Tuba, Bass and Percussion -- but she's regularly worked in
avant-jazz circles, especially since moving to Intakt in 1999. Trio
here with Drew Gress (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums).
- Steve Swell: Music for Six Musicians: Hommage À Olivier
Messiaen (2017, Silkheart): Avant trombonist, many records
since 1996, second recent Hommage to a modern classical
composer -- the previous Kende Dreams to Bartók. The strings --
Jason Kao Hwang on violin/viola, Tomas Ulrich on cello, but no bass --
got on my nerves a bit at first, and I still could use more trombone.
With Rob Brown (alto sax), Robert Boston (piano/organ), and Jim
Pugliese (drums). The Messaien references, of course, are way over
- Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (2015 ,
Euphorium, 2CD): German pianist, also records as Elan Pauer, goes
long here with two substantial servings of solo piano, dense and
crunchy, much like the Pauer record above.
- Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (2016 ,
Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, has a fairly short list of albums
under his own name since 1997, but has a pretty long list of
side credits. This format, with Chris Tordini on bass and Dave
King on drums, pushes him out front, and he doesn't bother with
the clarinet, so you get a consistent sound which grows in
authority and panache.
- Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Achille Succi: Planets of Kei: Free
Sessions Vol. 1 (2016 , Not Two): Acoustic guitar, viola,
bass clarinet/alto sax, the acoustic adding a prickly edge to the free
string mix, contrasting to the hollow sound of the reeds.
- Kyle Motl Trio: Panjandrums (2016 , Metatrope):
Bassist from San Diego, leading a trio with Tobin Chodos on piano and
Kjell Nordeson on bass. Strong, risky piano work, following a solo
bass album that rated nearly as high.
- Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (2016 , Capri):
Bassist-singer, second album, more emphasis on the vocals this
time (including some scat). One original, standards ranging
from Ellington to Loesser to Leiber & Stoller ("Some Cats
Know"), backed by piano and drums with Ken Peplowski (tenor
sax/clarinet) on half the cuts, Roger Neumann (tenor/soprano
sax) on two of those. Just bass and voice on "Willow Weep for
Me" -- one of the finest versions ever.
- Adam Pieronczyk: Monte Albán (2016, Regent): Polish
saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also credited with keyboards, electronics,
drum programming), leads a sax trio with electric bass (Robert Kubiszyn)
and drums (Hernán Hecht) through tricky freebop mazes.
- The Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard: Live at the Penthouse
1964-1968 (1964-68 , Resonance): Gene Harris' piano
trio, with Andrew Simpkins (bass) and Bill Dowdy (drums), originally
formed as a quartet in 1956 but soon lost their saxophonist, and went
on to record more than two dozen albums up to 1971. Cherry-picked
from several sessions (including a couple substitute drummers),
making sure that everything lives up to the title.
- Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se
Regardent (2016, Clean Feed): French pianist, has a half
dozen previous albums, working frequently with prepared piano.
This is something else: a ten-piece orchestra (two saxes, flute,
bassoon, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar and bass, drums), the
pieces inspired by various rugged landscapes, a rhythm section
itching to break free, the horns striving to heighten the tension,
not to break free.
- Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables (2015
, Pi, 2CD):
Drummer by trade, but he doesn't play much here,
his compositions largely turned over to a quartet of strings (including
contrabass), occasionally to piano (Chris Smythe). I suppose this focus
on classical-sounding composition reinforces his academic credentials,
most notably that he's been chosen to assume Anthony Braxton's post at
Wesleyan University. I find parts beguiling, but I'm not a big fan of
the chamber jazz concept, or of naming all your pieces "Movement" when
they don't move much at all. I'll also note that the stretches I find
myself most enjoying are the ones where the auteur joins in.
- Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet: No U Turn: Live
in Pasadena 1975 (1975 , Dark Tree): Back cover lists
Carter first, as indeed most of this now-legendary group's albums
did, but spine breaks the tie in favor of Bradford (credited with
cornet but photographed on the cover with flugelhorn). Previously
unreleased. Takes some time to get going.
- Bob Gluck/Billy Hart/Eddie Henderson/Christopher Dean Sullivan:
Infinite Spirit: Revisitng Music of the Mwandishi Band
(2015 , FMR): Piano, drums, trumpet, bass. Mwandishi
was a Swahili name Herbie Hancock adopted in the late 1960s/early
1970s, and the title of a 1970 album Hart and Henderson played on --
they were credited as Jabali and Mganga.
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Bring Their 'A' Game
(2015 , Hot Cup, EP): The second of this year's four EPs, available
April 1 -- for promo purposes I got them both at the same time, popped
both into the changer, and can't tell them apart. Would make a fine
single album were they so inclined.
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Magic Happen
(2015 , Hot Cup, EP): Guitarist, band includes two saxes -- Jon
Irabagon (alto) you know, Balto Exclamationpoint (tenor and his homemade
"balto! saxophone") I don't recognize (although previous member Bryan
Murray had also been credited with the less emphatic "balto saxophone") --
plus Moppa Elliott (bass) and Dan Monaghan (drums). Basically the same
avant brew Lundbom has been mixing up since 2009 -- my pick is still the
2CD Liverevil (2014) -- so what's new this year (aside from the
exclamation mark) is a marketing gimmick: the music is to be split up
into four 30-minute digital EPs, the first out now, the others in April,
June, and September. You can buy them "a la carte" or as part of a
subscription, or you can pre-order a "beautifully packaged" 4CD box
available September 30, which includes the downloads as they become
- Antonio Adolfo: Tropical Infinito (2016, AAM):
Brazilian pianist, has a couple dozen albums since 1969, nearing 70
now. Adds a horn section here -- Jesse Sadoc on trumpet and Marcelo
Martins on sax -- considers guitarist Claudio Spiewak a special guest.
Two originals, two other Brazilian pieces, but starts with two Benny
Golson tunes, adds one each from Oliver Nelson and Horace Silver,
plus "All the Things You Are" -- not just nice but delightful.
- Jamie Saft: Solo a Genova (2017 , RareNoise):
Pianist, seems like he mostly played electric early on but has
developed into a remarkable acoustic player, and this live set
of mostly standards -- 9/11, but more from rock era songwriters
like Dylan, Mayfield, Mitchell, and Wonder than jazz sources
(just Coltrane and Davis, with Ives as an outlier) -- is
- Edgar Steinitz: Roots Unknown (2017 , OA2):
Physician, professor, lately plays clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano sax,
studied with bassist Dave Friesen, who plays on this belated debut,
a set of pieces exploring Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Backed
with accordion, violin, and percussion, with Jay Thomas guesting on
trumpet/flugelhorn, flute, and tenor sax.
- Brad Garton/Dave Soldier: The Brainwave Music Project
(2017 , Mulatta): Garton seems to be a programmer, who's come up
with software to convert EEG (brainwave) data into music. Soldier is
a violinist who had a folk group called the Kropotkins and has done
all sorts of off-the-wall projects, like orchestrating a choir of
elephants. Several other names on the cover, with featured roles on
various songs: Margaret Lancaster (flute), Dan Trueman (Hardanger
fiddle), Terry Pender (mandolin), William Hooker (drums). I don't
understand how this works (what they call "data sonification") but
the music is pretty interesting in its own peculiar way.
- Samo Salamon/Howard Levy: Peaks of Light (2017 ,
Sazas): Guitarist, from Slovenia, duets with harmonica player Levy,
perhaps best known from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (1988-92,
returned in 2011), but he has more than a dozen albums, most on a
label called Balkan Samba. Strong presence, the guitarist working
deftly around the edges.
- Daniel Levin/Chris Pitsiokos/Brandon Seabrook: Stomiidae
(2016 , Dark Tree): Cello-alto sax-guitar free improv trio, the
latter two I associate with noise, although they keep that within
interesting bounds here -- a little scratchy, rather abstract, a
fair complement to a scratchy and abstract cellist. Stomiidae, by
the way, are a family of deep sea denizens such as the barbeled
dragonfish, pictured on the cover.
- Kaze: Atody Man (2017 , Libra): Two trumpet
quartet, Natsuki Tamura and Christian Pruvost, with Satoki Fujii on
piano and Peter Orins on drums. Fourth or fifth group album (one was
an expanded group called Trouble Kaze). Starts way back but builds
into something special.
- Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman:
Live at Vortex London (2016 , Intakt): Sax-bass-drums
trio, have played together a lot over the years, as a trio since
1980, the Parker-Lytton duo going back to 1967, with both playing
in Guy's big band in 1972. Mossman was founder of the Vortex, a
London club where they've played often for thirty-some years. Not
sure this is one of their best, but hard to deny.
- Dan Block: Block Party: A Saint Louis Connection
(2015 , Miles High): Tenor sax and clarinet, quite a bit of
the latter. Quintet with Rob Block (guitar), Neal Caine (bass),
Tadataka Unno (piano), and Aaron Kimmel (drums). Liner notes by
Joe Schwab, proprietor of Euclid Records in St. Louis for 35 years,
making me feel old as his shop didn't exist when I lived a half
block off Euclid -- what was it, oh dear, 45 years ago?
- Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints: Scandal
(2017 , Greenleaf Music): Superstars, their names towering over
the group name, formed for a Monterey Jazz Festival gig in 2013 and
now belatedly return for a studio album: tenor sax and trumpet backed
by Lawrence Fields (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), and Joey Baron
(drums). Douglas has a 5-4 song edge (plus two Wayne Shorter tunes),
but the group's bop-to-swing feels closer to Lovano's taste. Reminds
you of how great these musicians are without developing into a great
- Mike Jones/Penn Jillette: The Show Before the Show: Live at
the Penn & Teller Theater (2017 , Capri): Piano-bass
duets, all standards, mostly swing era with a nod to Jobim. Jillette
is better known as half of the magic act Penn & Teller. Here he
reveals himself to be a pretty good bassist, his swing the foundations
for the fancy tinkling.
- Peter Kuhn: Dependent Origination (2016 , FMR):
Clarinet player, also tenor sax, cut a couple of good avant records
1978-81 then dropped from sight until 2015, returning as strong as
he had left. Quintet here with Dave Sewelson (baritone/sopranino sax),
Dan Clucas (cornet), Scott Walton (bass), and Alex Cline (drums). Slow
to develop. Grows on you when it does, especially when it gets rough.
- Peter Kuhn Trio: Intention (2017 , FMR): Free
jazz, the leader playing clarinet and bass clarinet, backed by bass
(Kyle Motl) and drums (Nathan Hubbard).
- Sergio Galvao/Lupa Santiago/Clement Landais/Franck Enouf:
2X2 (2017 , Origin): Saxophone/guitar/bass/drums
quartet. The saxophonist leads, but it's the guitar that gives
this its uniquely Brazilian flair.
- Hal Galper Quartet: Cubist (2016 , Origin):
A superb pianist, side credits start with Chet Baker in 1964, his own
albums from 1971, gets extra help here from tenor saxophonist Jerry
Bergonzi, although a stretch late in the album where he's on his own
doesn't let down.
- Aruán Ortiz Trio: Live in Zürich (2016 ,
Intakt): Cuban pianist, with Brad Jones on bass and Chad Taylor on
drums. Two long pieces and one short one, picking up bits from Chopin
and Ornette Coleman, most impressive when they raise a rumble and the
beat goes every which way.
- The Heavyweights Brass Band: This City (2017 ,
Lulaworld): New Orleans brass band -- trumpet, trombone, tenor sax,
tuba, drums, emphasis on the bottom end -- plus various friends,
including Jackie Richardson singing Steve Earle's "This City" to
close -- a benediction and a vow of defiance.
- Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice
(2017 , Centering): Wife and husband, the former a dancer and
organizer of New York's annual Vision Festival. Discogs credits her
with a couple of vocal performances, but this is where she steps out
front with her spoken-word poetry accompanied by Parker's donso n'goni
and bass. I never really get the spirit/myth stuff, but won't fault
her cry for hope and justice. Parker is restrained, otherwise he'd
steal the show.
- Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame
(2018, self-released): Canadian group, fourth album since 2010,
co-leaders Michael Herring (bass) and Don Scott (guitar), backed
by the somewhat more famous Nick Fraser (drums) and Simon Hogg
(tenor sax). Complex groove with some sharp edges, closing with
an exceptionally catchy vamp.
- Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys!
(1994 , NoBusiness): Two bassists, one American but based in
France since 1972, the other Japanese, died in 1998 leaving a couple
dozen albums I haven't heard -- an early duo with Dave Burrell (1974),
at least one more with Phillips. This doesn't particularly sound like
bass, more like an underground orchestral soundtrack to a horror flick
that never turns really horrible.
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (2017 ,
Leo, 3CD): Tenor sax/piano duets, as if last year's seven-volume
The Art of Perelman-Shipp hadn't exhausted the topic. Of
course, it probably didn't. It may even have merely paved the way
for this level of intimacy. On the other hand, they're not doing
anything they haven't done many times before.
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star
(2017 , Edgetone): Alto saxophonist, also plays flute,
leads a septet with tenor sax, E-trumpet, vibes, two basses,
and drums. Some fine stretches, especially when I focus, but
slips by when I don't.
- William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics
(2017 , Gotta Let It Out): Four musicians -- Parker, Jeff Schlanger,
Anne Humanfeld, Leonid Galaganov -- playing Parker compositions on AquaSonic
waterphones invented by Jackson Krall. The instrument can be bowed or
struck, so this bears some resemblance to a cello/percussion group, but
higher pitched, with extra resonance due to the water. Leans toward noise
to start, but grows from there to become quite haunting.
- Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (2016 ,
Moserobie): Norwegian pianist, best known for work in groups like
Atomic and Free Fall, third trio album with Ole Morten Vågan (bass)
and Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums). Often struck me as a bit ornate
for those groups, but that works to his advantage here, as does a
challenging rhythm section.
- Johan Lindström Septett: Music for Empty Halls (2018,
Moserobie): Guitarist, also plays pedal steel guitar, spreads out a
very diverse album with at least one song as catchy as the "Peter Gunn"
theme, another called "Europe Endless Boogie," various spots for his
horns that break into free territory -- Jonas Kullhammar (sax), Per
Texas Johansson (clarinet), Mats Aleklint (trombone) -- then adds a
splash of strings for the closing "Hymn."
- Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (2013-14
, Moserobie): Swedish saxophonist, plays them all here, with
pianist Mathias Landaeus' trio on two sessions (different drummers),
each previously released on vinyl. Küchen is best known for his
Angles groups, but is a terrific free saxophonist, while the
rhythm is just regular enough to let him vamp and boogie a little.
- Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity -
50 Years (2016 , Intakt): Back in 1966, a hitherto unknown
28-year-old German pianist assembled Europe's (and, really, the world's)
first avant-jazz orchestra -- originally an ad hoc merger of groups led
by Gunter Hampel, Manfred Schoof, and Peter Brötzmann (ages 29, 30, and
25). The group grew to 18 the next year, and recorded regularly over the
next decade, regrouping later for significant anniversaries, with their
50th marking more time than had passed between ODJB's first jazz records
and Globe Unity's founding. Still 18 strong here, with Von Schlippenbach,
Schoof, and Gerd Dudek returning from the original band, plus Evan Parker,
Tomasz Stanko, and Paul Lovens from the 1970 group. Cutting edge then,
still pretty far out.
- Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light
(2017 , AUM Fidelity): Mostly an alto saxophonist, Carter is
also credited here with flute, trumpet, clarinet, tenor and soprano
saxophones. Not nearly as famous as his bassist and pianist, he is
actually older, and has played on quite a few of their better albums,
including in Parker's Other Dimensions in Music quartet. No drummer
here, so Shipp takes a strong rhythmic role, with Parker fattening
the sound and occasionally taking charge. Not one of Carter's flashier
performances, but he adds considerable color and flavor.
- Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (2018, Dare2,
2CD): British bassist, first album (Conference of the Birds,
1972) was a landmark of the 1970s avant-garde, but he edged into
the postbop mainstream over the years, winning many polls for his
quintet and big band efforts. In some ways he returns full circle
here, in a quartet with Evan Parker (tenor sax), Craig Taborn (piano,
keyboards, organ, electronics), and Ches Smith (percussion). Still,
nothing hair-raising here, with Parker at his most measured. Second
disc dials it back further, in case you want to enjoy the bassist.
- Kira Kira: Bright Force (2017 , Libra):
Part of Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii's record-a-month celebration
of turning sixty, resoundingly answering my complaint about last
month's entry by returning her piano to center stage -- at least
I assume it's her, as the quartet includes a second keyboardist,
Alister Spence, on "Fender electric piano, effects pedals and
preparations" (actually, pretty easy to keep them straight). With
Natsuki Tamura on trumpet (also inspired) and Ittetsu Takemura on
- Angelika Niescier Trio: The Berlin Concert (2017
, Intakt): German saxophonist, alto mostly, discography
dates back to 2000. Trio, with Christopher Tordini on bass and
Tyshawn Sorey on drums.
- Dave Gisler Trio: Rabbits on the Run (2017 ,
Intakt): Swiss guitarist, backed by Raffaele Bossard (bass) and
Lionel Friedli (drums), both names prominent on cover. Starts with
an easy atmospheric piece, followed by hard groove with impressive
drumming, then works back and forth.
- Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving
Breathing (2017 , Clean Feed): Slovenian guitarist,
composer, produced, his name along on the spine, the three names
in order on the cover. Not one of those albums where Malaby blows
the lid off, but nice shadings and a few strong runs.
- Henry Threadgill: Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus
(2017 , Pi): Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up debuted in 2015,
recording Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, the Jazz Critics
Poll album of 2016. The idea was two alto saxes, two pianos, and
two . . . well, one each: tuba, cello, drums. "Plus" adds a third
piano -- unless the point is it takes two pianists (David Bryant
and Luis Perdomo) to replace Jason Moran. Threadgill doesn't play
(Curtis Macdonald and Roman Fíliu return on alto), but composed
the tricky, slippery score. Not quite the tour de force of the
previous album, but perhaps he was thinking ahead to his larger
- Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More
Dirt (2017 , Pi): Recorded over three days starting
on the date of Double Up, the group expanded from 8 to 15,
with composer Threadgill (alto sax, flutes) and producer Liberty
Ellman (guitar) joining in, two trumpets, two trombones, bass, an
extra drummer, but only two pianists (Davids Bryant and Virelles).
Two pieces in multiple parts, alternately grand and fancy. Takes
a while to sink in.
- Sonar With David Torn: Vortex (2017 , RareNoise):
Swiss band (two guitars, electric bass, drums), handful of albums
including two on Cuneiform and two on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm
Records (one with Markus Reuter). Classified math/art/prog rock,
which doesn't mean much to me. This is instrumental with strong
guitar riffing, probably the band's default but also guitarist
Torn's preferred metier.
- Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Desert (2015 , L&H
Production): Russian pianist, trained under the Soviets in classical
music, moved to US in 1991 and took a shot at jazz in 2009. Back cover
shows the diminuitive redhead surrounded by three giants with white
(or no) hair: Paul McCandless (oboe, English horn, soprano sax, bass
clarinet), Arild Andersen (double bass), and Peter Erskine (drums).
Lovely pastorales, the piano and reeds alternately delightful.
- Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore
(2017 , Much Prefer): Singer-songwriter from Macedonia, based
in New York, day job psychiatrist, also plays guitar, third album, gets
classified as avant-garde jazz but sounds more like the Go-Betweens.
The confusion is explained by the band: Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris
Davis (piano), Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Brian Drye (trombone),
Michael Blanco (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums and co-producer). OK,
they're slumming playing such straightforward rock, except that's not
all they do.
- Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet: Passion
Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner (2016
, Whaling City Sound): Pianist, born in Venezuela, based in
New York, three previous albums. All three have ties to Tyner, who
wrote the first nine pieces and dropped in for some booklet photos.
Tenth piece is by Coltrane. Last three are tributes, one each.
- Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm: Blues Dharma (2017
, GB): Piano/tenor sax duets, the pianist from Canada, teaches
at York, two previous albums, not someone I've noticed before but
he's forceful here, driving the rhythm, building on it. Frahm is
a saxophonist I've often admired, but usually on other people's
albums. He's masterful here, a delight.
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Beyond
Dimensions (2016 , FMR): Alto sax-drums duo from Quebec,
have produced a lot of albums since 1999, often trios with a guest
pianist or bassist or, here, their fourth album with Polish acoustic
bass guitarist Mazur. Some superb stretches, a shade less satisfying
than their Oneness (2017) or Unknowable (2015).
- Bill Anschell: Shifting Standards (2017 , Origin):
Mainstream pianist, grew up in Seattle, spent a decade in Atlanta before
moving back. Trio with Jeff Johnson (bass) and D'Vonne Lewis (drums),
playing nine standards -- two from Gillespie, Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes,"
Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," the rest from the Berlin-to-Bernstein
songbook, all smartly done.