Jazz Consumer Guide (12):
No Training Wheels Necessary
Ferocious homage mingles with daring fusion, looking
both back and beyond
by Tom Hull
Nils Petter Molvaer:
Molvaer's fusion is the proper heir to Miles Davis's in two respects:
he's a master at getting the rhythm tight, and his trumpet adds a bare
minimum of human voice without detracting from the machines. His
programmed beats grow more complex and varied each time out, here
opening up new paths ranging from chill out to a striking Sidsel
Endresen vocal. Three cuts return from An American Compilation,
which also overlaps Streamer in Thirsty Ear's campaign to catch
up with Molvaer's Europe-only releases. Consumers can weigh the
redundancies and bait, but this is where the others were heading.
The Vandermark 5:
Free Jazz Classics Vols. 3 & 4
Two bonus discs from early editions of studio albums, one exploring
Sonny Rollins's compositions from the '60s, the other engaging
Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Both sources manifested freedom less in form
than through their outsized personalities. The V5's front line of
two saxes plus dirt trombone spreads their singularities out and
formalizes their innovations. But they also preserve the familiar
heads, providing handles for the mischief that follows, and
eliciting some of the group's most boisterous, and accessible,
The Ancient Art of Giving
The second installment in Avital's archives, *Room to Grow,
starts to make the case for the Israeli bassist as a catalyst for
cutting edge postbop in the late '90s, but this is the album where
the payoff comes clear. His quintet is structured for hard bop,
but he lets the rhythm slosh around, and once they get warmed up,
Mark Turner's tenor sax and Avishai Cohen's trumpet, break loose.
Like Chano Pozo in 1947, trap drummer Berroa moved to New York in
1980 and found a job in Dizzy Gillespie's band. But his Afro-Cuban
roots were attenuated -- he blames Castro for suppressing Yoruba
religion and restricting his schooling to the Euroclassics. Even
here, Gonzalo Rubalcaba's piano and Felipe LaMoglia's saxophones
provide the Cuban rhythms, not trad percussion. An effective
pan-American synthesis, codified.
Nocturnes & Serenades
Slow standards, with "Autumn Nocturne" and Serenade in Blue"
justifying the title, "You Go to My Head" and "Chelsea Bridge" more
instantly recognizable, and "Man With a Horn" his calling card.
He's made virtually the same record before, and he'll no doubt do
it again. After all, who does it better?
(Fresh Sound New Talent)
Sergi Sirvent is an up-and-coming Barcelona-based pianist with a
handful of tantalizing albums -- duets with guitarist Santi Careta
and drummer Xavi Maureta, a Free Quartet with two drummers, a
Monk-inspired group called the Unexpected. Those all seemed like
rough sketches, but guitarist Jordi Matas fills out a finely
balanced quartet here.
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid:
The Exchange Session Vol. 1
Better known as Four Tet, Hebden's instrument is laptop, on which
he improvises in real time -- at least in how he deploys samples
that are sometimes jazzlike and often reminiscent of George Russell's
electronic sonatas. Reid, following the model of Rashied Ali's Duo
Exchange, answers on drums, but as you'd expect from a guy who's
worked for James Brown and Fela Kuti, often finds a groove.
Fresh From the Cooler
A bebop pianist who almost slipped through 66 years of life without
leaving a trace, Hewitt built enough of a cult during his Smalls
residency to inspire a label in no small part dedicated to his
legacy. His fourth posthumous release features a trio that steps
gingerly around jazz standards such as "Cherokee" and "Monk's Mood"
-- nothing fancy, just a rare touch with for melodic nuance.
(1965, Blue Note)
The recent Time Lines, the avant-pianist's second return to Blue
Note, strikes me as his career average album, but his elevation to
living legend has spurred the label into restoring his catalog. A
few years ago only the universally revered Point of Departure was
in print. Now, recommended reissues include Black Fire, Smoke
Stack, Judgment!, Andrew!!!, and the rediscovered
Death. On another obscure one, he holds the center down so firmly
that Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson can go as far out as they
To Nat "King" Cole With Love
Gregory's big brother comes close enough to the mark to beg the
question -- why not stick with the originals. Hines's smooth, agile
baritone can't touch Cole's one-of-kind voice. But the band spans
Cole's career, with more muscle than the Trio and none of the dross
of his orchestras. And because Cole was the hippest of pre-rock
pop stars, by a margin that has only grown since, the songs live on.
Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake/William Parker:
Palm of Soul
Driven from his home by Katrina, storied but little documented
avant-saxophonist Jordan headed for New York to a cult hero's
welcome. At 70, he shows signs of mellowing a bit -- or maybe he's
just amused by his playmates, who augment their world-class bass
and drums with world-class toys like guimbri and tablas.
From This Moment On
The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra doesn't split the difference
between Billy May and Nelson Riddle so much as aggregate the virtues
of each, but they're no more useful than May and Riddle without a
commanding singer. And Krall, who's always been able to put over
a song, exerts the necessary authority. And if songs like "Come Dance
With Me" and "It Could Happen to You" invite Sinatra comparisons,
she's up for that too.
5 for Freddie: Bucky's Tribute to Freddie Green
The rhythm section tracks Basie's legends well enough -- Mickey
Roker for Jo Jones, Jay Leonhart for Walter Page, John Bunch for
the Count -- and Pizzarelli can certainly keep the engine humming.
But Green was famous for never taking a solo, which leaves the
guitarist in need of someone else for the spotlight. Enter Warren
Vaché as Sweets Edison, even lighter on cornet, just enough voice
to focus these old swing warhorses, and totally at home.
Dud of the Month
Warren Vaché and the Scottish Ensemble:
Don't Look Back
Fronting a phalanx of strings has been a stock dream of virtuosos
since before Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, but few have made
anything interesting out of the opportunity -- two exceptions are
Stan Getz's Focus, because of the futurist strings, and Art
Pepper's Winter Moon, in spite of them. Vaché might have fared
relatively well here, as he has in such intimate settings has his
Bill Charlap duet 2Gether, but the 12-strong, baroque-rooted
Scottish Ensemble is dead weight.
Maurice El Médioni Meets Roberto Rodriguez:
Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions
An Algerian-Sephardic twist on Rodriguez's Cuban-Ashkenazi synthesis.
Billy Stein Trio:
After decades of quiet refinement, subtle shadings of guitar, bass
Sergi Sirvent & Xavi Maureta:
Lines Over Rhythm
(Fresh Sound New Talent)
They start with six from Bird, then lose the training wheels.
The avant saxophonist's title isn't irony, but his sprawling
trio-plus-voice doesn't make quiet any easier.
I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey
One last swing through the '40s, in rememberance of Mom.
Tomasz Stanko Quartet:
Slow, bleak, haunting, so subtly understated you'd think inscrutability
was the point.
At 84 he finally learns to relax and stretch out on a ballad.
Mark Helias' Open Loose:
(Radio Legs Music)
Bassist-led sax-drums trio, with Tony Malaby and Tom Rainey on the
Samo Salamon Quartet:
(Fresh Sound New Talent)
Slovenian guitarist hires Mark Helias' Open Loose trio for backup --
a gutsy move.
Sathima Bea Benjamin:
A jazz singer 40 years out of Africa -- the roots thin out, but the
pianists keep coming.
Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet:
Way Out East
Where wild but princely bassoon and cello roam.
Sooner or later, some of Bird's children grow up.
Dennis González Boston Project:
No Photograph Available
Working the kinks out on the road to NY Midnight Suite.
Sweet Love of Mine
Cut a month before his death: poignant solo piano, plus further
proof of how he lifted everyone around him, even Elise Wood flutes
and Javon Jackson sax.
I'll See You When You Get There
Minimal Sonny, his alto sax or English horn solos barely clad in
admiring bass, piano or drums.
Kali Z. Fasteau/Kidd Jordan:
People of the Ninth: New Orleans and the Hurricane 2005
She fêtes the hero of New Orleans, and he centers her eclecticism.
The Book of Love
David 'Fathead' Newman:
Charles Tolliver Big Band:
This table provides a working guide to how the JCG is shaping up.
This does not include anything moved to bk-flush: these include items
relegated to Surplus, reviewed in Recycled Goods, or just passed over.
Entries in black are written, gray graded but
not written, red ungraded but with prospect
notes (all these are at the bottom of their approximate grade levels,
alphabetized). A-list, B-list and Duds are alphabetical; HM lists are
ranked, with breaks for three-two-one stars.
- Nils Petter Molvaer: ER (Thirsty Ear) A
- The Vandermark 5: Free Jazz Classics Vols. 3 & 4 (Atavistic) A
- Omer Avital: The Ancient Art of Giving (Smalls) A-
- Ignacio Berroa: Codes (Blue Note) A-
- Scott Hamilton: Nocturnes & Serenades (Concord) A-
- Hat: Hi Ha (Fresh Sound New Talent) A-
- Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid: The Exchange Session Vol. 1 (Domino) A-
- Frank Hewitt: Fresh From the Cooler (1996, Smalls) A-
- Andrew Hill: Pax (1965, Blue Note) A-
- Maurice Hines: To Nat "King" Cole With Love (Arbors) A-
- Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Palm of Soul (AUM Fidelity) A-
- Diana Krall: From This Moment On (Verve) A-
- Bucky Pizzarelli: 5 for Freddie: Bucky's Tribute to Freddie Green (Arbors) A-
- Maurice El Médioni Meets Roberto Rodriguez: Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (Piranha) A-
- Billy Stein Trio: Hybrids (Barking Hoop)
- Sergi Sirvent & Xavi Maureta: Lines Over Rhythm (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- Ellery Eskelin: Quiet Music (Prime Source)
- Regina Carter: I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve)
- Tomasz Stanko Quartet: Lontano (ECM)
- Von Freeman: Good Forever (Premonition)
- Mark Helias' Open Loose: Atomic Clock (Radio Legs Music)
- Samo Salamon Quartet: Two Hours (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- Sathima Bea Benjamin: Song Spirit (Ekapa)
- Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet: Way Out East (Songlines)
- Frank Morgan: Reflections (High Note)
- Dennis González Boston Project: No Photograph Available (Clean Feed)
- John Hicks: Sweet Love of Mine (High Note)
- Sonny Simmons: I'll See You When You Get There (Jazzaway)
- Kali Z. Fasteau/Kidd Jordan: People of the Ninth: New Orleans and the Hurricane 2005 (Flying Note)
- Warren Vaché and the Scottish Ensemble: Don't Look Back (Arbors) B-
- Cheryl Bentyne: The Book of Love (Telarc) C-
- David 'Fathead' Newman: Life (High Note) C+
- Charles Tolliver Big Band: With Love (Blue Note/Mosaic) B
Album count: 33; Word count: 1553 (graded 18: 1216; additional 15: 337).
I try to write up an informal note on every jazz record I hear the
first (or sometimes second) time I play it. Those notes are collected
over the course of a week, then posted in the blog. They are also
The surplus file collects final notes
when I decide that I cannot realistically keep a record under active
consideration for the Jazz Consumer Guide. These notes are mostly
written at the end of a JCG cycle and posted to the blog when the
column is printed. In effect, they are the extended copy to the
column. There are various reasons for this. For especially good
records, it is often because Francis Davis or someone else has
already reviewed it and my two cents would be redundnat. For old
music it is often because I wrote something in Recycled Goods and
figure that was enough. Sometimes good records have just gotten
old. Most of the time the records aren't all that interesting
anyway. I can handle 25-30 records per column. It just doesn't
make sense for me to keep more than 60-80 graded records in the
active list at the start of a new cycle. In many cases, I decide
the prospecting notes or Recycled Goods review suffices, so note
that in the file.
Working on the following (both new and old). When done they will go
to the print or done
or flush file. When the column is published,
the done entries will be dumped into notebook.