Jazz Consumer Guide (16):

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #16. The idea here was to pick an unrated record from the incoming queue, play it, jot down a note, and a grade. Any grade in brackets is tentative, with the record going back for further play. Brackets are also used for qualifying notes: "advance" refers to a record that was reviewed on the basis of an advance of special promo copy, without viewing the final packaging; "Rhapsody" refers to a record that was reviewed based on streaming the record from the Rhapsody music service; in this case I've seen no packaging material or promotional material, except what I've scrounged up on the web. In some of these cases there is a second note, written once I've settled on the grade. Rarely there may be an additional note written after grading.

These were written from Jan. 7 to Apr. 7, 2008, with non-finalized entries duplicated from previous prospecting. The notes have been sorted by artist. The chronological order can be obtained from the notebook or blog.

The number of records noted below is 240. The count from the previous file was 259 (before that 269).

Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski's Pow-Wow (2006 [2008], Arbors): I still think of Alden as a young guy, but he's pushing 50 now. He came up well after bop became postbop, so he never had to pay much heed to it, developing a swing style on guitar that never really existed before -- real swing guitarists (unless you count Charlie Christian, which most don't, or Django Reinhardt and Eddie Lang, other stories completely) played rhythm. (Oh yeah, George Van Eps was an influence, a pretty obscure one.) He has a couple dozen albums since 1985. Peplowski plays clarinet and tenor sax, where swing traditions are much clearer. He's a year younger, also has a couple dozen albums. Don't know how many times they've played together before -- at least 11 times, but working in the same circles with each over 100 credits there are doubtless more. This isn't even their first duo: they did one in Concord's Duo Series in 1992 (which my records say I have ungraded but I can't find). I'm not much of a duo fan, but works out pretty well. Peplowski has a knack for tracing out clear melodies even solo. Alden can pick him up with some rhythm, fill out his lines, or add something on his own. The album wanders around quite a bit, mixing Bill Evans with Ellington, Bud Powell with Cole Porter, hopping off to "Panama." B+(***)

Steve Allee Trio: Colors (2006 [2007], Owl Studios): Piano trio, with Bill Moring on bass, Tim Horner on drums. Allee hails from Indianapolis. Played with Buddy Rich when he [Allee] was 19. Fifth album since 1995. Sharp, solid mainstream record, not much more to say about it. B+(**)

Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run the World (2007 [2008], Palmetto): Another Flash-only website. An advance copy with little information; e.g., credits like "Michael Blake (sax on selected tracks)"; no recording date (AMG gives Aug. 17-18, 2007); no song list (AMG doesn't have one either, but I picked up one from Palmetto website; no catalog number (AMG has one but it looks wrong). Presumably Allison wrote all the pieces, since that's something he does. Also, like Gress, he's one of the major bassists of his generation -- not as much session work, but a stronger record as a composer. "Man Size Safe" is a song title as well as the first indication of a group name. Group includes Ron Horton on trumpet, Steve Cardenas on guitar, Michael Sarin on drums, and Blake more or less. Allison was part of a group that called itself the Jazz Composers Collective (along with Horton and Blake, Frank Kimbrough and Ted Nash). They all do sort of left-of-center postbop, but Allison seems to get more kick out of his melodies. This is interesting, thoughtful stuff, but I'll hold off until I know more. [B+(**)] [advance]

Karrin Allyson: Imagina: Songs of Brasil (2007 [2008], Concord Jazz): Singer, from Great Bend, pretty close to the dead center of Kansas, although we think of it as out west. Ten or so albums since 1992, starting with cabaret material and moving around a bit, including a couple of previous forays into Brazil. Plays some piano too, but Gil Goldstein is also credited here (also on accordion), and I don't have the breakdown. Most songs start off in Portuguese, then slip into English. I don't find either all that convincing, although it settles into a bit of a groove. B- [Rhapsody]

Patrick Arena: Night and Day (2008, Arenamusic): Singer, based in Western PA, maybe from there too, as his CV indicates he studied drama at Duquesne 1970-72, from which I also deduce he's over 50. Spent some time in NYC. Teaches voice. His strikes me as soft-toned, unmannered, with limited range, although he can modulate the volume. A couple of originals and some peculiar covers, like "I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco." C+

Marcos Ariel: 4 Friends (2007, Tenure): Brazilian pianist, from Rio de Janeiro. Recorded his first record, Bambu, in 1981. Divides his time between Rio and Los Angeles. First I've heard of him, and I don't have a good feel for his discography. May be inclined toward progressive or fusion -- he classifies himself on MySpace as "Nu-Jazz / Down-tempo / Lounge." This is a Brazil-rooted jazz quartet -- piano (Ariel), guitar (Ricardo Silveira), bass (Joăo Baptista), drums (Jurim Moreira) -- with a twist when Ariel moves to synth and starts pumping in fake horn sections. The synth parts are a bit off, partly undeveloped, but mostly because his piano is so crisply rhythmic. Also because it complement Silveira, who is as superb as ever. B+(**)

Susie Arioli Band: Live at Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (2006 [2008], Justin Time, CD+DVD): Canadian singer, originally from Toronto, now based in Montreal; interprets standards mostly from the swing era, although she's also shown a special fondness for country tunesmith Roger Miller -- two of his songs here. Band credit adds "featuring Jordan Officer" -- Officer plays guitar, wrote a couple of instrumentals, has been a fixture in Arioli's band since 1998, but the band also features a second guitarist, Michael Jerome Browne, as well as bass (Shane MacKenzie). Drummer Rémi LeClerc is listed here as a special guess, but Arioli plays a snare with brushes, and that mostly suffices. DVD repeats the live CD tracks in slightly different order, adding 5 songs (or 6 counting "Nuages" in the extras). Hype sheet says she's sold 200k copies over 4 previous albums. Crowd is packed, mood is romantic, music mellow and tasteful. B+(**)

At War With Self: Acts of God (2007, Sluggo Music): Picked this off the shelf after noticing that Dave Corp's Dave Archer plays synths here. Needn't have bothered. Leader is Glenn Snelwar (another Gordian Knot connection), who plays guitar and more synths. Someone named Mark Sunshine sings. Hype sheet describes this as "an amalgam of tight-knit compositions encompassing progressive rock, metal, jazz, ambient and classical stylings." Simple algebra factors all that down to progressive rock. Not bad as such, but not much interest here. B

Derek Bailey: Standards (2002 [2007], Tzadik): Don't have a recording date, but reports are that this set was recorded two months before the widely acclaimed 2002 album Ballads. Bailey was an avant-garde guitarist -- perhaps I should say the avant-garde guitarist, at least on the British scene. The has a vast catalog, of which I've heard next to nothing (4 albums), and have no particular insight to. Not sure whether he's mannered or just obscure, or whether I'm just confused. This is acoustic guitar, solo. The seven songs are credited to Bailey. They may or may not code references to real standards -- "Please Send Me Sweet Chariot" seems like a promising title. No idea what it means. But there is something semi-hypnotic about his approximately random attack. It must means something that I wouldn't mind hearing it some more. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Cyro Baptista: Banquet of the Spirits (2008, Tzadik): Brazilian percussionist, in US since 1980, with several previous albums on Tzadik and a lot of side credits. Starts out in disjointed Brazilian psychedelic mode, with Baptista singing over his disjointed beats, a style I've rarely if ever managed to follow. Later on several pieces pick up a Middle Eastern vibe, thanks to Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, playing oud, bass, and gimbri, and they're easier to handle. Probably some good ideas here, but too much weirdness for me to handle on short order. B- [Rhapsody]

Daniel Barry: Walk All Ways (2007, OA2): B. 1955 Erie, PA; studied at University of California Santa Barbara; now based in Seattle. Plays cornet. Also credited here with melodica and misc. percussion. First album under his own name, but has several more in a big band called the Jazz Police, including The Music of Daniel Barry. He also has a prominent role in the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, another big band. This record is also on the largish side, ranging from the delightful conga-powered "Mighty Urubamba" that leads off through some things that slide through classical territory leaning heavily on violin, cello, accordion, and James DeJoie's clarinets, flute, and bari sax. The cornet is always bright and welcome, the arrangements clever and classy. B+(**)

Sam Barsh: I Forgot What You Taught Me (2008, RazDaz/Sunnyside): Plays electric keyboards more than piano. Based in New York since 2001. Plays in bassist Avishai Cohen's groups. This first album is a quartet with vibes (Tim Collins), bass and drums. Mostly groove pieces, the keyboards plasticky but not quite cheesy. Plays some melodica too, which fits. B+(*)

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Holon (2007 [2008], ECM): Don't have record date, so I'm guessing. ECM usually has those things, although the booklets have been getting more minimalist. Swiss pianist, b. 1971, into zen, funk, martial arts, green tea, most of which are combined here, although possibly misapplied. A ronin is an outcast samurai warrior, a loner. The five-piece band, however, has two albums now, and play tighter than ever. Electric bass, drums, and percussion chug out regular rhythms, similar to Nils Petter Molvaer, maybe more mechanistic, with minor shifts to keep from wearing down. Bärtsch played Fender Rhodes on the earlier Stoa, but goes with acoustic piano here, adding a layer that again shifts subtly. Someone who goes by the name Sha plays bass and contrabass clarinets and alto saxophone, but he blends in and is pretty inconspicuous. Six pieces are titled "Modul" followed by a number. They start simple and build a bit. It's not postbop and not avant-garde and it doesn't fuse anything obvious, but it's got more going for it than dance electronica or experimental rock. A-

Al Basile: Tinge (2007 [2008], Sweetspot): Born 1948 in Haverhill, MA. Learned trumpet as a teenager, but majored in physics at Brown, and seems to have had a spotty musical resume until he started recording in 1998. Played trumpet in Roomful of Blues 1973-75. Started singing in clubs in Providence in 1977. Has six albums now. Don't know about the others, but this one, with Duke Robillard producing and playing guitar, is straight blues with a dash of Jelly Roll Morton providing the title. Basile's liner notes include references to Louis Armstrong and Cootie Williams. Smart, sensible record. B+(**)

Joe Beck & John Abercrombie: Coincidence (2007 [2008], Whaling City Sound): Guitar duets. Mostly standards, plus one original from Beck, two from Abercrombie. Abercrombie is by far the better known, with a long string of albums on ECM. Beck has a pretty scattered career, with fusion, funk, and soul jazz as well as more mainstream records. Both are contemporaries (Abercrombie born 1944, Beck 1945). This seems evenly balanced, conversational even. B+(**)

Louie Bellson & Clark Terry: Louie & Clark Expedition 2 (2007 [2008], Percussion Power): Two old timers, Terry born 1920, Bellson 1924 (as Luigi Balassoni). Both came up in big bands, crossing paths in 1951 with Duke Ellington. Bellson by then had worked for Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Harry James. Terry was in between stretches with Count Basie. Don't think there's a previous Louie & Clark Expedition record -- most likely they're referring back to something that happened even before their time. Back in the day this may have been nothing special, but it packs a punch, and the good vibes are palpable. Bellson has extra help on drums: Sylvia Cuenca and Kenny Washington. There are extra trumpets too, but Terry is credited with six solos. Release date is the official one given by the publicist, who seems to like a lot of lead time. Looks to me like the album is already on sale at CD Baby. B+(***) [Apr. 2]

Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby (2007 [2008], Hyena): Piano, electronics, keyboards, in trio with bass (Reed Mathis) and drums (Matt Chamberlain and/or Andrew Barr). I suppose you could call this instrumental music "nu rock" (in reference to "nu soul" but I don't mean it so badly) -- there's another term that escapes me. I find the swelling riffs particularly annoying, but don't mind when he takes time out to play with his toys, and find one heavy groove cut choice: "The Real Morning Party." B

Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (2007 [2008], Tzadik): Trumpet player, refers to Oakland as his hometown in liner notes here, although he's better known in New York. Credits include Lounge Lizards, Sex Mob, Robert Altman's Kansas City band, Baby Loves Jazz band, Millennial Territory Orchestra. This is his fourth Diaspora title in Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series. They refer back to sephardic folk songs, sometimes reframed in terms of where the diaspora found themselves, as with Diaspora Hollywood. This one jelled conceptually when the Kansas City band reunited after Robert Altman's death -- something about setting the scene then letting the improvisations fly. Large group: hype sheet refers to it as a nonet, but I count ten musicians -- possibly explained by a hint in the liner notes that Will Bernard added his "guitar sweeteners" after the fact. The group swallowed the Nels Cline Singers whole, with extra guitar and percussion, Ben Goldberg's clarinets, Peter Apfelbaum's tenor sax (or flute, or qarqabas, evidently metal castanets from Morocco), Jeff Cressman's trombone. I thought it sounded fabulous first time through, but haven't caught the mood since. Will keep it in play. [B+(***)]

Steven Bernstein: Diaspora Suite (2007 [2008], Tzadik): A little overblown, but what do you expect in a suite? Using the Nels Cline Singers, plus extra guitar, as the core of his rhythm section, Bernstein gets by with two brass and two reeds, and sounds Ellingtonian in the bargain. What confused me at first was that by styling this as a Robert Altman tribute, I figured he was aiming for Basie. A-

Cindy Blackman: Music for the New Millennium (2008, Sacred Sound, 2CD): Drummer, born 1959 in Ohio, raised in Connecticut, studied at Berklee and with Alan Dawson. Has a pile of records as a leader: 4 on Muse, 3 on High Note. Don't know when this was recorded (AMG lists whole thing as 2004, which looks to be wrong). Quartet, with JD Allen on tenor sax, Carlton Holmes on keyboards, George Mitchell on bass. AMG classifies Blackman as hard bop, which seems fair: this is solid mainstream fare with nothing aiming towards postbop. Blackman's drumming is heightened in the mix, but not heavy handed. It's her record, and shows her off well. I'm even more impressed with Allen. He's got a distinct tone, commanding presence, can move around and flash some muscle. From Detroit, about 33, has two albums I haven't heard -- the one called Pharoah's Children most likely has nothing to do with Sanders. B+(**)

Walt Blanton: Monuments (2006 [2008], Origin): Plays trumpet, based in Las Vegas, evidently teaches at UNLV, has two previous albums. This is a trio with Tony Branco on piano and John Nasshan on drums, also Las Vegas based. Improv set, free jazz, not so far out but holds your interest, full of little surprises. At least I'm surprised -- needs another play. [B+(***)]

Jane Ira Bloom: Mental Weather (2007 [2008], Outline): Can't say much for my "mental weather" here, having played this three times and formed no opinions. Bloom plays soprano sax, and is one of the few and best known specialists, a postbop player staying clear of the instrument's avant-garde paradigms. Quartet with Dawn Clement on piano/Fender Rhodes, Mark Helias on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Seems interesting, but hasn't clicked yet. [B+(*)]

Ryan Blotnick: Music Needs You (2007 [2008], Songlines): Guitarist, b. 1983 in Maine, studied in Copenhagen, and recorded this album in Barcelona, although his home base these days looks to be Brooklyn. First album. Website lists a number of interesting musicians he's played with, but doesn't provide any further discography, and AMG lists no side credits. Quintet, with Pete Robbins (alto sax), Albert Sanz (piano), Perry Wortman (bass), and Joe Smith (drums). I've run across Sanz and Smith before on Fresh Sound, while Robbins had a good album a couple of years back on Playscape. Split the difference between those labels and you should get cool-toned postbop with a quietly subversive avant edge, which is about what Blotnick delivers here. I might even go further and say that this is what cool jazz would sound like if anyone was still making any. Mostly slow, but sneaks up on you. Robbins doesn't stand out until six cuts in, one called "Liberty." Could be I'm calling this prematurely, but it's awful subtle. B+(***)

Jimmy Blythe: Messin' Around Blues: Enhanced Pianola Rolls (1920s [2007], Delmark): Born 1901 in Kentucky, moved to Chicago in 1916, died 1931, played piano, best known for his classic jazz sessions with clarinetist Johnny Dodds. These solo recordings are taken from piano rolls -- they're described as "enhanced," but the only detail given is that the tempos have generally been slowed down -- elegant and robustly rhythmic rather than hot frenzy. Don't have dates, but mid-1920s are probable. B+(***)

Paul Bollenback: Invocation (2007, Elefant Dreams): Four extra names on front cover, but nothing inside provides credits. The names are Randy Brecker, Ed Howard, Victor Lewis, and Chris McNulty, which presumably means trumpet, bass, drums, and vocals, respectively. Guitarist. Originally from Illinois, but spent some eye-opening years in New Delhi as a teenager. Currently based in New York. Seven albums, starting 1995. Likes nylon strings. Don't know what he's using here, but he gets a soft, silk sound that is quite attractive. The trumpet is a nice, but somewhat rare, touch. I don't care for the scat at all, but the final cut, Coltrane's "After the Rain," holds together so nicely maybe I should give it another play. [B]

Paul Bollenback: Invocation (2007, Elefant Dreams): Clear, ringing tone on guitar, nicely defined, graceful, usually makes sense. Turning it into an album is an open proposition. A guest like Randy Brecker helps. On the other hand, I find Chris McNulty's scat distracting, not to mention annoying. B

Frederic Borey Group: Maria (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): French saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano. Looks like his first album. Quartet includes guitar, bass, and drums. Don't know much about him. After some searching, I found a French website, implemented wholly in Flash, and for that matter possibly the most annoying Flash I've ever seen. Example: a bio page is cut up into four pieces which are perpetually animated, sliding around the window. I could probably glean some useful info even in French if only I could get it to hold still. Flash itself doesn't provide any controls for slowing or stopping animation, for turning off the sound, or anything else that would be useful -- killing the process and replacing it with a black window is at the top of my wish list. (Sorry to run on like this, but someone has to say it somewhere.) As for the record, it's soft-toned postbop, especially with the soprano, which tends to be cloyingly pretty. Borey's tenor is more substantial, and it's a pleasure to follow his logic. Much of the backdrop is due to guitarist Piere Perchaud, who does a particularly nice job of setting the sax up. B+(*)

Bo's Art Trio: Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We! (2007 [2008], Icdisc): Bo is Bo van de Graaf, Dutch saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor). Don't have much background, but he's been around since 1976, discography since 1981, mostly on BVHaast. Has some sort of relationship with film composer Nino Rota. He formed Bo's Art Trio in 1988 with pianist Michiel Braam and drummer Fred van Duijnhoven. Like much of the Dutch avant-garde, the operative concept here is humor -- most obviously on the two pieces where Simon Vinkenoog shouts poetry over Braam's jokey, crashing piano chords: D.H. Lawrence's "A Sane Revolution" from 1928 and a "Jazz and Poetry" original, in Dutch, I believe. Those pieces may limit the appeal. Van de Graaf's saxes are bright and edgy, bursting with joy. B+(**)

Richard Boulger: Blues Twilight (2005-06 [2008], City Hall): Trumpet player, originally from Massachusetts, then Connecticut. Studied with Jackie McLean and Freddie Hubbard, who penned the liner notes here. Released first album in 1999. Joined Gregg Allman and Friends in 2001. This is his second album, cut over two sessions, the first blessed by John Hicks on piano, the second helped out by Anthony Wonsey. Hard bop, pretty vigorous. One thing I don't like is having the sax (David Snitter or Kris Jensen) shadow the trumpet, and there's a lot of that here. On his own, Boulger cuts a fine figure. B

Kelly Brand Nextet: The Door (2008, Origin): Pianist, based in Chicago. Fourth album. Composed and arranged all except for a Wayne Shorter piece. Several songs have lyrics, which are sung by Mari Anne Jayme. Postbop group, with trumpet, tenor sax/flute, cello, bass, and drums. Smart, even tempered, carefully poised. Hype sheet quotes someone calling this "noteworth craftsmanship and flowing serene energy"; another: "elaborate, listener-friendly pieces that score points for both poise and intellect." Neither quote stretches far. B+(**)

Anthony Braxton: Solo Willisau (2003 [2007], Intakt): I need to go back and listen to For Alto again. It was recorded 35 years earlier, is legendary as the first solo saxophone record (although Coleman Hawkins and possibly a few others did solo pieces). Penguin Guide ranks it as a crown album. Last time I played it I noted that it was the ugliest thing I ever heard. I doubt that I say the same now, but you never know. To this day when my wife wishes to show extreme disgust over some quarrelsome saxophonist I'm playing, she asks if it's Anthony Braxton. That's unfair and way off base. For Alto aside, when I first started listening to jazz in the mid-1970s, the first two artists I really keyed onto were Braxton and Ornette Coleman. (I figure that's why I grew up thinking Charlie Parker was a piker.) After Lee Konitz, Downbeat's critics should give Braxton some serious Hall of Fame consideration -- although that seems a long ways away, given that he's not on the ballot and stuck down around #9 in the alto sax category. This new one isn't anywhere near the ugliest ever, but it is solo, which gives it a narrow tone range and makes it tough to sustain much rhythm. He does "All the Things You Are" and seven originals, each running 8-12 minutes. At least some of it is sustained invention of a high order, but it's abstract, difficult, tough to keep up with, and ultimately of rather marginal interest. [B+(**)]

Anthony Braxton: Solo Willisau (2003 [2007], Intakt): For Alto redux, 35 years to the wiser, no longer shocking, but still a contrarian puzzle. For one thing, I don't understand why he still insists on fishing sounds out of the horn that neither God nor Adolph Sax ever imagined. Most folks play alto for its smooth control at whiplash speeds, and Braxton has shown that he's second to none in that regard -- compare his Charlie Parker record to the relatively lead-footed originals. But at times he huffs and puffs here like he's playing bagpipes (which he has done, and I swear they're even uglier than For Alto). So I don't get it, but I'm way past minding. He's one of the geniuses of our age. B+(**)

Melody Breyer-Grell: Fascinating' Rhythms: Singing Gershwin (2008, Rhombus): Singer, born in New York, raised on Long Island. Don't know when, or how long she spent "honing in on her skills" -- her web bio doesn't offer much for a timeline, but she emerged in 2004 with an album called The Right Time (Blujazz), and this is her second. Gershwin songs, hard to go wrong there. Strong voice, able to spin some nuance that I don't always like. First half she seems game to challenge the standards head on, and she gets plenty of help from her band, especially saxophonist Don Braden. Toward the end she feels the need to try to do something a bit different. She talks her way through much of "They All Laughed," then sandwiches "Embraceable You" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Score some points for interest and form. Try not to think too much about Ella. B+(*) [Mar. 4]

Peter Brötzmann/Peeter Uuskyla: Born Broke (2006 [2008], Atavistic, 2CD): Duo, stripped down from the trio that recorded the excellent Medicina in 2004. The loss of the bassist limits the color and shadings, but drummer Uusklya breaks loose impressively. Brötzmann is credited on the back cover with tenor sax and clarinet, but the booklet photos show him on alto sax with some other instruments sitting off to the side, possibly his trusty taragato. Does sound more like tenor, though. One can argue that he's mellowing a bit, but that's sort of like saying the Himalayas are eroding. First disc has three pieces totalling 57:51; second one piece at 38:24. The thin, harsh sound wears over time, but the rough hewn musicianship can be dazzling. B+(***)

Rob Brown Ensemble: Crown Trunk Root Funk (2007 [2008], AUM Fidelity): Born 1962 in Virginia, based in New York, plays alto sax, mostly in William Parker projects like the Little Huey Orchestra, In Order to Survive, and the extraordinary Quartet behind O'Neal's Porch and Sound Unity, expanded to Raining on the Moon and expanded again. He's been building up a catalog under his own name, now up to 19 titles, mostly duos or trios on very small labels. He plays fast and fierce, thrilling when it all comes together. This group was assembled for a Vision Festival show, then reconvened in the studio, where they play 7 Brown originals. Craig Taborn (piano, electronics), William Parker (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- terrific rhythm section, they keep Brown flying all through the session, or soaring gracefully on the rare spots when they slow down a bit. A- [Mar. 11]

Bob Brozman: Post-Industrial Blues (2007 [2008], Ruf): Guitar collector, particularly fond of National Resonator guitars, with half a dozen models featured here, as well as lap steel, 7-string banjo, dobro, a resophonic ukulele, and a closet full of exotic instruments (sanshin, chaturangui, gandharvi, etc.) that mostly turn out to be disguised guitars. Studied ethnomusicology at Washington University in St. Louis, probably about the same time I was there. Has a dozen-plus albums, half or more blues-themed (like this one), the other half more worldly, ethnomusicologically speaking. The blues are straightforward, although the guitar is a little bent. Two more/less non-originals, the Doors' "People Are Strange" and Nat Cole's "Frim Fram Sauce," renamed "Shafafa." B+(**)

Bill Bruford/Michiel Borstlap: In Two Minds (2006-07 [2008], Summerfold): Borstlap plays piano and electronic keyboards; Bruford drums, of course, with a credit for "log drum" which comes as a nice touch. At one point they get an Asian effect that I can't quite place. Mostly intimate conversation. They've done this duo before on Every Step a Dance, Every Word a Song -- another good record. B+(*)

Katie Bull: The Story, So Far (2006 [2007], Corn Hole Indie): An adventurous jazz singer, citing Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan as influences, working with mostly avant musicians like Michael Jefry Stevens and Joe Fonda. Fourth album, a very ambitious song suite, with a DVD (unviewed) documenting her performance art. You can use her cover of "Twisted" for calibration: it is looser and quirkier than Annie Ross (or Joni Mitchell, even), and those traits pop up every now and then in her originals. Problem is I don't find myself caring, even when she taunts Bush for not finding any WMD. B

John Butcher/Torsten Muller/Dylan van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 [2008], Drip Audio): Recorded in Vancouver by local drummer van der Schyff. Butcher is an English avant-garde saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano here. Has a PhD in theoretical physics (thesis: "Spin effects in the production and weak decay of heavy Quarks"). He has a long list of records, and is well known to anyone who reads The Penguin Guide more assiduously than The Bible, although few others are likely to have even heard of them. I've only heard three albums myself, nothing I much cared for, but hardly a representative sample. Müller (umlaut omitted here) is a bassist, b. 1957 in Hamburg, Germany, but since 2001 based in Vancouver. Müller has no albums of his own, but pops up all over the place, a notable common denominator here being his relationship with the late trombonist Paul Rutherford, to whom this record is dedicated. This is pretty rough free music, very democratic, or maybe I mean anarchic. One thing I rate avant records on is their crossover potential, and this clearly fails on that account. On the other hand, sometimes I like something perversely difficult I chuck my normal standards. This gorgeous ugly mess may be one of them. [A-]

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: The Middle Picture (2005-06 [2007], Firehouse 12): Plays cornet. Student of Anthony Braxton; seems to have a continuing relationship. First and last cuts are trio with guitar (Mary Halvorson) and drums (Tomas Fujiwara). The rest add a second guitar (Evan O'Reilly), Jessica Pavone (viola, electric bass), and Matt Bauder (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Very fractured, discontinuous music. The two covers ("In a Silent Way" and "Bluebird of Delhi") are useful for gauging the deconstruction -- the latter, from Ellington's The Far East Suite, is especially striking. The originals are difficult abstractions, intriguing but hard to get a handle on. The sort of thing I'd save for some extra plays if that were practical. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Cachao: Descargas: The Havana Sessions (1957-61 [2007], Yemaya, 2CD): The best known, or at least the best nicknamed, of a family of legendary Cuban bassists, Israel Lopez wrote hundreds or thousands of songs, ranging from an early role in the invention of the mambo to two volumes of Grammy-winning Master Sessions in 1993. But he's most famous for his descargas, or jam sessions. A-

Hadley Caliman: Gratitude (2007 [2008], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, started in Los Angeles in the 1950s -- website says he's 77, booklet says 76, AMG says born 1932. Had an eponymous record in 1971, a couple more over the years, but this is the first one in a good while. Recorded in Seattle. Quintet: Thomas Marriott (trumpet), Joe Locke (vibes), Phil Sparks (bass), Joe La Barbera (drums). The vibes are a nice touch, lightening and sharpening a fairly conventional west coast bop group. B+(**)

The Roy Campbell Ensemble: Akhenaten Suite (2007 [2008], AUM Fidelity): The only time I tempted to visit New York for live jazz is when the Vision Festival is on. For several years I was seeing very selective compilations from the concert series. Lately we're starting to see more full concerts, such as this one, subtitled Live at Vision Festival XII. Campbell plays trumpet and its relatives, and picks up something called an arguhl (a two-tube "clarinet") to flavor his Egyptian themes -- beyond the title suite, he plays "Pharoah's Revenge" and "Sunset on the Nile." Born 1952 in Los Angeles, moved east in the late 1970s, joining Jemeel Moondoc's Muntu Ensemble, hooking up with various William Parker projects, including Other Dimensions in Music. This is Campbell's 7th album since 1991 under his own name, but there are more albums with him in a leading role, and lots more joining in. Group here includes Bryan Carrott on vibes, Hilliard Greene on bass, Zen Matsuura on drums, and Billy Bang on violin. Bang makes the difference, his natural swing propelling the album as unstoppably as the Nile, but the vibraharp accents kick it off in surprising directions. A-

Cannon Re-Loaded: An All-Star Celebration of Cannonball Adderley (2006 [2008], Concord Jazz): An assembled studio band, doing ten songs more/less associated with Adderley. Group leader and alto saxophonist is Tom Scott, the all-star of L.A. studio hacks. He doesn't break any new ground, but he's got a gorgeous sound, swings hard, and carries the album. Playing Nate is an underutilized Terence Blanchard. The keyboards are doubled up with Larry Goldings on organ and George Duke on everything else. Marcus Miller plays bass, spelled by Dave Carpenter on two cuts. Steve Gadd is the drummer. I could do without Nancy Wilson singing two songs, but have to admit that "The Masquerade Is Over" ain't half bad. The Adderleys were respectable hard boppers who somehow were remarkably popular, an equation that doesn't seem to be repeatable any more, even though it's hard to imagine how anyone could dislike them. This is an honest, somewhat obvious attempt to bring them back and make them sound contemporary. Works about as well as it can -- but 50 years ago we were different, mostly younger (as I recall). B+(**)

Ila Cantor: Mother Nebula (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist. Website says she was raised in New York, but also says she moved there after high school. I figured her for Spanish, but website says she moved to Barcelona later, "to experience a new culture, language, and life." Two sources say she's the daughter of an author and filmmaker, but don't give a name. She has several groups/projects, both in Barcelona and in New York, including a cabaret group called The Lascivious Biddies. This is a New York group, a quartet with Frederik (or Frederick, on the front cover) Carlquist on tenor sax, Tom Warburton on bass, Joe Smith on drums. First cut starts with an agreeable funk groove, and Carlquist's sax stands up and comes out honking. That sets up the vibe for the rest of the album, even while it strays further afield. I'm most impressed with Carlquist, but can't find much -- a Fredrik Carlquist has two albums on Dragon, and I've also seen a Frederic Carlquist. [B+(**)]

Ila Cantor: Mother Nebula (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitar-sax-bass-drums, same lineup as Jostein Gulbrandsen's record on the same label, but different players, and that makes all the difference. Cantor's guitar is rockish, funky, and the bass-drums (Tom Warburton, Joe Smith) follow suit. Tenor saxophonist Frederik Carlquist, on the other hand, lacks Jon Irabagon's avant edge nor does he try to honk his way through. Rather, he plays the straight man in the group: soft-toned, articulate, logical. I like him quite a lot. Never did track down Cantor's group, the Lascivious Biddies. B+(***)

John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist. Born 1976 in South Korea, grew up in Los Angeles, went to Cal State when he was 14, got interested in jazz piano, graduated at 19, headed on to Rutgers, where he studied under Kenny Barron. First album. Starts as a quartet where the first thing you notice is the tenor sax: Mark Turner. He plays on the first two cuts, the fourth and sixth. The other three drop back to a trio and let the pianist stretch out. He sneaks up on you. [B+(***)]

John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Three trio cuts let postbop pianist Chin stretch out and show you what he's got up his sleeve. The other four cuts add tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who predictably steals the show. Good showcase, but slightly uneven as an album. B+(**)

Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam): Jazz singer, from Subic-Zambales in the Philippines, presumably based in the US these days, on her second album. First song is a "My Funny Valentine" spinoff ("My Funny Brown Pinay") that I found annoying, and she continued to dig a whole for herself until midway through I noticed that her take on Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl" wasn't bad. That was followed by a 5-piece "Filipino Suite" that started with some interesting percussion courtesy of the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble. That didn't quite sustain my interest, but her "Be My Love" ballad came off well. So I figure I should play it again, but not now. [B]

Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam): Filipino singer, recasts "My Funny Valentine" as "My Funny Brown Pinay" and enlists the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble for her 5-part "Filipino Suite," which doesn't push the exotica all that hard. Her torch ballad "Be My Love" drags a bit, but she shows a sweet tooth with some R&B grit on "Sugar in My Bowl" and "Candy." B+(*)

The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007, Cryptogramophone): The group name always throws me: there are no vocalists here, although Cline claims a credit for "megamouth" here, whatever that is. Cline plays guitar, electric more than acoustic, with or without effects. The group is what back in the '60s was called a Power Trio: guitar-bass-drums, like Cream, or the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Devin Hoff plays contrabass, which I take to be the big acoustic one. Scott Amendola is credited with drums, percussion, "live" electronics/effects. Glenn Kotche appears on one track, as if Amendola isn't enough. This is their third album, although Cline has other projects, including a rock band called Wilco -- or maybe he's just hired help there. This is as close as anyone's gotten to heavy metal jazz. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing; if I'm just not in the mood, or just got put out of the mood. I think I'll put it on the replay shelf and wait for a better time. Could be it's amazing. Could be it's not. I do recommend an earlier one called The Giant Pin (2003 [2004], Cryptogramophone). [B+(**)]

The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007, Cryptogramophone): Looking at the year-end lists, it's clear that Cline has started getting some attention from outside the jazz world, no doubt due to his employment by Wilco. Their latest album has a guitar dimension they've never had before, but ultimately it takes a back seat to the singer and the songs. Here, in this non-vocal group, guitar is king. I go back and forth on the album. The long "Mixed Message" is as impressive a piece of power trio fusion as I've heard in a long time, at least when it's cranking. But the atmospheric stuff doesn't do much for me one way or another. B+(**)

Vidal Colmenares: . . . Otro Llano (2006 [2007], Cacao Musica): English trot in the booklet starts: "During the late 80's, analists and experts in marketing processes developed a gradual list, by category or importance order, called the scale of audience intensity." I've seen worse mechanical translations, but few so inadvertently and perversely coherent. It's hard to piece together much real information from the booklet, let alone from secondary sources. Wikipedia describes Colmenares' home town, Barinas, Venezuela, thus: "Barina's is a bit grubby, similar to a rubbish tip. Hot chicks, but they all have the child running behind them." Oh well. Colmenares was born there in 1952, has a gray moustache and a nice smile. Presumably he sings and plays cuatro (a four-string guitar common in Venezuela) -- credits don't say what he does, but the lead vocals are consistent, a slightly pinched sound reminiscent of Speedy Gonzales caricature, but more pliable. The llanos are the highlands straddling Venezuela and Colombia. The booklet includes pictures of cows and Colmenares on horseback, suggesting this is the real c&w of the llanos. Sounds about right. B+(***)

Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 1: Modinha (2006, Pirouet): Got this for background after listening to Vol. 2. Gary Peacock plays bass on both, but the drummers change: Bill Stewart here, Paul Motian there. One thing I always remember about Stewart is how he completely slam dunk aced a blindfold test a few years back (in Jazz Times, I think). That almost never happens: not only did he recognize everyone, he provided a lot of detail on why. Clearly, he knows his trade and its lore. Compared to Motian, however, he's very straightforward, which makes him hardly a factor in these fine piano trio recordings. Three covers here provide some melodic highlights -- especially lovely is the closer, "Taking a Chance on Love." B+(**)

Marc Copland: The New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices (2006 [2007], Pirouet): Pianist, originally from Philadelphia, based in New York, closing in on 60 now. Always well regarded. I've only heard a couple of his records, and don't have Vol. 1 to compare this one to. What I've heard before struck me as good, and this as better. One could say that by association at least he's moved into the front ranks of contemporary pianists: he's working here with Gary Peacock (as he has many times in the past) and Paul Motian (who has a Hall of Fame career making pianists look good, starting with Bill Evans; Copland's usual drummers have been Billy Hart and Bill Stewart). One of those quietly unassuming piano records that sneaks up on you, never hitting a false note, full of subtle nuances, the only thing we've come to expect from masters like Peacock and Motian. [B+(***)]

Marc Copland: New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 2: Voices (2006 [2007], Pirouet): The change from Vol. 1 was to replace Copland's usual drummer Bill Stewart with veteran maestro Paul Motian. Motian has made a whole career out of teasing pianists, and Copland is notable enough he'll slot right into a long list that starts with Bill Evans and extends through and beyond Marilyn Crispell. Gary Peacock plays bass. He has a long history with Copland, and takes a large role here -- in addition to his solo time he wrote four songs to Copland's three (Miles Davis' "All Blues" is the only cover). B+(***)

Dave Corp: The Sweet Life (2007, Sluggo Music): Band name: the musicians are Dave Archer (keyboards), Mr. Grin (bass), Matt Hankle (drums). Archer wrote the songs and produced, so figure him as leader. Fusion record, on the loud side. Not sure what the favored keyboard is, but it's played like an organ, just short on funk and soul, long on arena theatrics. B-

Buddy DeFranco: Charlie Cat 2 (2006 [2007], Arbors): Born 1923, DeFranco came up in the swing bands of Gene Krupa and Charlie Barnet, but adapted to bebop, one of the few young reed players to stick with the instrument. He started recording around 1952, his output waxing and waning with business cycles, but he pretty much always sounds the same: the bright tone and fleet dynamics you remember from the swing masters, occasionally showing off his bebop moves. He hasn't recorded a lot lately, but sounds fine here -- well supported with Howard Alden and often Joe Cohn on guitar, Derek Smith on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Ed Metz Jr. on drums, and Lou Soloff adding some contrast on trumpet. [B+(**)]

Buddy DeFranco: Charlie Cat 2 (2006 [2007], Arbors): This reminds me of what Louis Armstrong used to call "the good ole good uns," even though DeFranco remains for all intents and purposes a bebopper -- "Anthropology" closes this out in a rush. But his chosen instrument is clarinet, which tends to refer back to the swing era, especially when he's lined up with the usual Arbors crew, including Howard Alden and/or Joe Cohn on guitar, Derek Smith on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Ed Metz Jr. on drums. B+(**)

Delirium Blues Project: Serve or Suffer (2007 [2008], Half Note): I suppose "What Is Hip" is intended to be delirious. It is the least blue of these nine songs, with Lil Green's "In the Dark" the most archetypal, "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirits Down" the most ordinary, and pieces by Tracy Nelson, Joni Mitchell, and Mose Allison not much one way or another. Kenny Werner is the leader, arranging the songs and playing keyboards. Never thought of him as a blues guy -- Copenhagen Calypso is one of his more memorable titles. Roseanna Vitro sings. I liked her Ray Charles record quite a lot, but these songs rarely fit. The band has some all-stars, and they deliver a couple of scorching solos -- Ray Anderson on trombone and James Carter on tenor sax are standouts, and Randy Brecker has some moments on trumpet. Recorded live at the Blue Note. B

Tom Dempsey & Tim Ferguson: What's Going On? (2007 [2008], City Tone): Dempsey plays guitar; Ferguson bass. Just duets: slow-to-moderate, intimate, quite lovely. Couple of originals, scattered covers, including Marvin Gaye title song, "Stardust," Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan," Charlie Haden's "First Song (For Ruth)," two pieces from different Jones brothers. B+(**)

Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra (2007 [2008], Thrill Jockey): Dixon is an avant-garde trumpet player, probably best known for his 1966 appearance on Cecil Taylor's Conquistador. He has a fairly thin discography since then, mostly on the Soul Note label in Italy, mostly small groups, many duos. He's something of a legend, but often a tough slog. Exploding Star Orchestra is a large ensemble of Chicago avant-gardists led by Chicago Underground cornet player Rob Mazurek. Long list of familiar names here, including: Nicole Mitchell (flute), Matt Bauder (bass clarinet, tenor sax), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Jeff Parker (guitar), Jim Baker (piano), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), a half dozen more. Three sprawling pieces, two by Dixon sandwiching one by Mazurek. A slog, with moments of amusing clarity. Haven't made up my mind yet. For that matter, I still have last year's Exploding Star Orchestra on the replay shelves. [B+(**)]

Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra (2007 [2008], Thrill Jockey): Dixon is a logical fit for Rob Mazurek's supernova big band -- an esteemed avant-gardist, a rarely heard trumpet, normally the sharpest instrument in the band (although Mazurek's cornet provides some competition). He composed two long pieces; Mazurek dedicates the third to him. Still, Dixon tends to get lost in the mix. Similar to last year's mixed bag, but a bit more climactic. B+(**)

Dave Douglas & Keystone: Moonshine (2007 [2008], Greenleaf Music): I don't doubt for a moment that Douglas is brilliant, but often find that he is either over my head or beyond my ken. As near as I can tell, he does two things here: especially on the first half, he concocts postbop so tricky it puts classical music to shame; and he returns to his electronics experiments, mostly as coloring, but DJ Olive finally gets the upper hand with "Kitten." One piece in the lurch is called "Flood Plane," with a Bush sample mumbling something about terrorists as Douglas conjures the lost spirits of New Orleans over Olive's scratching. Relatively small group, with Marcus Strickland taking over the sax spot, and Adam Benjamin on Fender Rhodes. Interesting, but after four plays I'm still stumped. [B+(**)]

Greg Duncan Quintet: Unveiled (2006 [2007], OA2): Trumpet player, based in Chicago. Attended Washington State, then University of North Texas, and did a tour with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Quintet pairs him with Dan Nicholson on tenor and alto sax, in front of Marcin Fahmy (piano), Jeff Green (bass), and Jon Deitemeyer (drums). Hard bop lineup, but he's moved into postbop, with bright, aggressive displays from the horns, tricky harmonic manoeuvres, shifty time, lush piano. Mostly originals, keying off pieces by Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, ending with "My Foolish Heart." Pretty impressive first album. B+(**)

Bill Easley: Business Man's Bounce (2007, 18th & Vine): Saxophonist, mostly plays tenor here, but claims a clarinet solo, and may work some flute in as well. Born in Olean NY (1946?), moved to NYC in 1964, but went to college at Memphis State, and got his first record credits with Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes. Credits include a lot of Jimmy McGriff, soul singers, Jazz at Lincoln Center. He's got a robust, gutbucket R&B tone, and can bop a little. Starts with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," which he describes as "Hip Hop for senior citizens and their parents." Frank Wess joins on "Mentor"; Warren Vaché on "Memphis Blues," where Easley dusts off his clarinet. B+(***)

Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford: Spark! (2007, Palmetto): One of those razor-thin slipcase specials that got lost on my shelves, discovered only when I reached for the next record over and it fell out. Duos. Melford plays piano; Ehrlich alto sax and clarinet. Both are important figures who should by now need no introduction. Pieces are evenly divided, with one extra each by Robin Holcomb and Andrew Hill. This suffers the usual duo problems -- the instrument imbalance, uncertainty and the resultant tendency to slow down, erratic flow -- but comes through often enough to suggests it may be worth the time to sort out. Hope I can find it again. [B+(**)] [advance]

Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford: Spark! (2007, Palmetto): Deceptively calm sax-piano duets from two musicians used to playing on the edge, but not so calm they slip into the background. Not sure what the idea behind the title was, but by removing all the tinder their spark never gets engulfed in fire. B+(**) [advance]

Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill Evans (2007 [2008], Blue Note): For starters, I still find Evans impenetrable, which isn't to say I'm immune to his charms, although he really has to be doing something special to overcome my resistance. Pianist Elias manages to evoke the same conflicted responses, so she must be doing something right. In general, she's a better pianist than singer. (Except when she's doing Jobim. Maybe Astrud Gilberto skewed the field so far that even Elias seems vibrant by comparison, or maybe she's just so much more at home there.) But the paleness in her voice suits the half-plus songs with vocals here, although only "Detour Ahead" really catches my ear. Bassist-husband Marc Johnson played with Evans, and managed to borrow Scott LaFaro's bass for a couple of songs, so he's beyond reproach. Joey Baron is exceptionally quiet, never reminiscent of Paul Motian. No idea whether Evans fans will like this or not. I find it charming, but can't claim I understand why. B+(***)

Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): Widely touted as the top male vocalist in jazz, a highly problematic category. I've only listened to him rarely, more often than not with much displeasure. This may reverse the ratio -- his "Undun" swings fine -- but "A New Body and Soul" brings out all the usual annoyances: the awkward forced word-fit of vocalese, the hipster posturing, the fact that his voice doesn't have a crooner's reach. Need to play it again and see which way it falls. [B]

Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): Live in Chicago led the Penguin Guide to exult: "what an electrifying performer Elling is!" They went on to dub Man in the Air "the jazz vocal album of the last decade." He seems to be the consensus male jazz vocalist pick. I don't think he has a lot of competition, but I've never heard anything from him that caught my ear. He does some vocalese, awkwardly forcing his voice through word mazes, with little vocal reach. The small groups here are too intimate to give him much cover. Fussy, arty, deadly dull, except for Randy Bachman's "Undun," which has a genuine pop hook and swings a little. I don't know his records well enough to know how this compares, but something is amiss. C+

Duke Ellington Legacy: Thank You Uncle Edward (2007 [2008], Renma): Nine-member group, eight instruments plus vocalist Nancy Reed, at least for this record -- website shows two other lineups, the common denominators being leader-saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, trumpeter Mark McGowan, pianist Norman Simmons, drummer Paul Wells, and namesake guitarist Edward Ellington II, Mercer's son, Duke's grandson. Two guests here are Joe Temperley on bass clarinet/baritone sax and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. (If you're counting, that leaves bassist Tom DiCarlo.) Ellington songs (one from Mercer, the rest from Duke) aside from the well disguised "Toe Tickler" by Mayhew. Five vocals, mostly unexpected -- e.g., Jon Hendricks vocalese on "Cottontail." The arrangements are big and bold, and the band swings hard. Didn't much notice the guitar. B+(**)

John Ellis & Double Wide: Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (2007 [2008], Hyena): Saxophonist, mostly tenor (also soprano and bass clarinet here), originally from rural North Carolina, now in New York, with an identity-forming stop in New Orleans along the way. Fifth album: one in 1996; another on FSNT in 2002; three now on Hyena, where he's been going for a soul-funk vibe, which he mixes up a little more than usual this time. This is a quartet, with Gary Versace on organ and accordion, Matt Perrine on sousaphone (a marching band tuba filling in for bass), and Jason Marsalis on drums. He's got a distinctive tone on tenor sax, which the deep brass only adds to. B+(**)

Lisle Ellis: Sucker Punch Requiem: An Homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat (2005 [2008], Henceforth): Ellis is a bassist, also interested in electronics. Originally from Canada. Three previous albums, plus three more as part of What We Live, plus scattered credits, mostly avant-garde. I can't tell you what if anything this has to do with Basquiat, a painter and drug casualty evidently quite fond of jazz, except that Ellis pulled "sucker punch" out of a bit of Basquiat graffiti. Group here strikes me as an odd bunch. Pamela Z's electronically filtered vocals add an air of high church to the requiem, and I suppose Holly Hofmann's flute could signify angels. Mike Wofford is a first-rate pianist who works a lot with Hofmann. Susie Ibarra is an interesting percussionist formerly associated with David S. Ware and Assif Tsahar. They work hard to hold this together, but George Lewis is pretty inscrutable on trombone. On the other hand, the one thing you really do notice here is the sax, unmistakably the work of Oliver Lake. B+(*)

Mike Ellis: Chicago Spontaneous Combustion Suite (2000 [2005], Alpha Pocket): Ellis plays saxophones, listing sopranino, soprano, and baritone in that order. Don't know much about him: his website bio starts (or actually, working backwards ends) in 1977 with him studying at Berklee with Billy Pierce. Further studies with Ernie Wilkins, Clifford Jordan, and Steve Lacy. Work with Alan Silva. A group called M.E.T.A. Later got involved with Brazilian music. This is a single 19-part suite, with a quintet, two trumpets (Jeff Beer, Ryan Shultz), bass, drums, constructed is a lean, spare avant vein -- nothing much happens, but the meandering holds your interest anyway. B+(**)

Mike Ellis: Bahia Band (2005 [2008], Alpha Pocket): Recorded in Salvador, Brazil, with a mostly Brazilian band, picking up a Professor of African Percussion at the Music Academy of Bahia named Dou Dou Coumba Rose, a Jamaican vocalist from Guyana named Ricky Husbands, a guitarist named Munir Hossn who claims Barcelona, Paris, and Senegal among his homes but was born in Brazil. Mostly guitar (Mou Brasil as well as Hossn) and percussion, setting up a complex, rumbling riddim, which the horns -- Gileno Santana on trumpet, Marcio Tobias on alto sax, Ellis on soprano -- ride along with, although Ellis in particular remains sharp enough to cut the grease. More elemental than Speak in Tones, and better for it. A-

Peter Erskine/Tim Hagans & the Norrbotten Big Band: Worth the Wait (2006 [2007], Fuzzy Music): The Norrbotten Big Band is based in Sweden, ready on call to back up guest stars for impromptu radio concerts. (Don't know how common this sort of group is, but the only other one I run into as often is WDR Big Band Köln.) I have no idea how many records they've appeared on. In a little digging I dug up recent titles with artists I've never heard of -- Jonas Kulhammar (Snake City North, on Moserobie) and Lennart Ĺberg (Up North, on Caprice) -- as well as a Randy Brecker thing I scored as a dud and a previous meeting with Hagans that actually got filed under the band's name. My impression is that they're a sharp outfit, ready and willing to follow anyone down any hole. Erskine is best known as a fusion drummer (Weather Report) and Hagans as a hard bop trumpeter, but they both started out in Stan Kenton's big band, with Erskine moving on to Maynard Ferguson and Hagans moving to Europe to work with Thad Jones and Ernie Wilkins and returning frequently to the format, especially with Bob Belden. Four Erskine originals, two each arranged by Hagans and Bill Dobbins, plus three pieces by Hagans. Clean, crisp work; a lot of horn power but not overdone, with more than the usual space for drum solos. B+(*)

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else (2006 [2007], Thrill Jockey): This is cornetist Rob Mazurek, better known as the cornerstone of Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, and Quartet. This, his big Sun Ra move, could have been attributed to the Chicago Underground Big Band. Two multi-part pieces called "Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time" and "Cosmic Tones for Sleep Walking Lovers" and a one-part interlude called "Black Sun." Starts out in fine orbit before it cracks up a bit, then wanders off into a cloud of microscopic space dust. Eventually the cosmic tones start to emerge -- something else I guess we can blame on flutes. Not unlike the man from Saturn, the best parts sound fabulous; not so sure about the rest. [B+(**)]

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else (2006 [2007], Thrill Jockey): Rob Mazurek's Chicago-based big band for all intents and purposes is the new Sun Ra Arkestra. They make for an unworldly space jazz, but where Ra could tap into his roots and swing, the group here relates more to prog rock and whatever experimental rock came on down the road -- e.g., the label's main act is Tortoise. Magnificent in parts, scattered elsewhere. B+(*)

Kali Z Fasteau/Kidd Jordan: Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland (2007 [2008], Flying Note): Credit can/should also include drummer Newman Taylor Baker, whose name is on the front cover in smaller print on the cover but not on the spine. Jordan is a veteran from New Orleans who plays raw avant tenor sax, a throwback to the 1960s when ugliness was creed. Fasteau plays all sorts of things, taking nine songs on nine different instruments: mizmar, piano, nai flute, cello, synthesizer, voice, violin, drums, soprano sax. She offers a wide range of contrasts to Jordan's constant. Gets loud, weird, sometimes mesmerizing. Audience has fun. B+(*)

Bobby Few: Lights and Shadows (2004 [2007], Boxholder): Pianist, born in Cleveland in 1935, followed Albert Ayler to New York in 1962 and headed further east in 1969 to France, where he teamed up with Steve Lacy. Still in Paris, with a sizable discography. This one's solo, original improvs except for a Lacy piece. My usual caveats about solo piano apply, including my difficulty finding words, but this strikes me as well above average, the work of someone who's spent a lot of time digesting Lacy's oeuvre, itself built on the work of pianists Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. B+(*)

Irving Fields Trio: My Yiddishe Mama's Favorites (2007, Tzadik): A pianist, b. 1915, still playing at 92. In his heyday he was what we'd now call a "lounge pianist," best known for his 1959 novelty record, Bagels and Bongos, which was a remarkably successful recasting of Jewish songs like "Hava Nagila" with Cuban percussion. He returned to the bongos thing many times, recording not only More Bagels and Bongos but also Pizzas and Bongos, Bikinis and Bongos, and Champagne and Bongos. It seems inevitable that he would be rediscovered by Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez, who elevated Jewish-Cuban fusion to a whole new level, and that they would record as part of John Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture series. This is a much tamer, more respectful album: the songs are older, the piano dominates, the percussion is subdued and sometimes incidental. But they do reprise "Hava Nagila," and that picks up the pace. Greg Cohen plays bass. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Irving Fields Meets Roberto Rodriguez: Oy Vey!!! . . . Olé!!! (2006, Tzadik): An earlier meeting, this time Fields' piano fits nicely into Rodriguez's rhythmic framework, with the instrumentation filled out by Gilad Harel on clarinet, Uri Sharlin on accordion and organ, and Meg Okura on violin -- also some vocal early on, but thankfully that didn't stick. The principals alternate songs, including Fields oldies like "Miami Beach Rhumba," "Managua Nicaragua," and "Song of Manila." Not sure how good it all is, but the shtick is pretty irresistible. B+(***)

Jeremy Pelt & Wired: Shock Value: Live at Smoke (2007, MaxJazz): Trumpet player, got some notice a few years back as the hot new kid on the block. Doesn't seem so hot here: don't know whether he's using a mute, riding the flugelhorn, or stuck in his effects -- probably a bit of all three. Opens with a long blues jam called "Blues," led by guitarist Al Street. Frank LoCrasto plays Fender Rhodes and B3, a smorgasbord of soul jazz clichés. Bass is probably electric too, hence the group name. Becca Stevens sings one song, which started off unpromising anyway. Only the closer, "Scorpio," starts to show off his trumpet to advantage. Too little, too late. B- [Rhapsody]

The David Finck Quartet: Future Day (2007 [2008], Soundbrush): Bassist, from Philadelphia I think, studied in Rochester, settled in New York. First album as leader, but he's done quite a bit of studio work: his website lists 122 albums going back to 1980; AMG comes up with more. He's worked with a lot of singers, mostly pop -- he flags 5 gold and 4 platinum albums, including Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook series -- but also Rosemary Clooney, Harry Connick Jr., Mark Murphy, Peter Cincotti, and one album with Sheila Jordan. Some other credits include Steve Kuhn, Paquito D'Rivera, Claudio Roditti, and André Previn, who praises him lavishly. He wrote two pieces here, with four more from the band, and six covers. Starts off with a nice bass groove, and much of the album is deliriously upbeat. Locke's strong suit is the way he interacts with pianists, effectively turning the two of them into one supersplashy instrument. Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and Bob Sheppard (tenor sax) appear here and there as special guests. I didn't keep score -- you don't really notice them until you realize that things have slowed down a bit, which probably isn't a good sign. B

Fleurine: San Francisco (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Singer, originally from Netherlands, now based in New York. Three previous albums, including a duo with pianist Brad Mehldau, who appears on three cuts here. Toured Cuba with Roy Hargrove in 1996. Brazilian music here, Chico Buarque conspicuous among the composers, the lyrics (some of which she added) split between Portuguese and English. Nice, light, authentic feel from the percussion (Gilad) and guitar (Freddie Bryant and Chico Pinheiro). Chris Potter adds to one song each on alto flute, bass clarinet, and tenor sax. No idea where the title comes from: hopefully not a nod to the Bay Area's abysmal Brazilian scene, which is way beneath her. B+(*)

Fond of Tigers: Release the Saviours (2007, Drip Audio): Seven-piece instrumental group from Vancouver, classified by AMG as rock but really more of a fusion band, with an insistent pulse and a bit of avant edge. Credits listed alphabetically, from bassist Shanto Bhattacharya down to violinist Jesse Zubot. No song credits. Zubot gets an extra credit as producer, but his violin isn't all that prominent. Nor, for that matter, is the only horn, JP Carter's trumpet. B+(*)

Elli Fordyce with Jim Malloy: Something Still Cool (1999-2006 [2007], EF Music): Fordyce is a singer based in NY, b. 1937, with her first album. (I saw one website that had her born in 1974 with 6 albums, but nothing else I see gives that any credence. Scott Yanow's liner notes ask: "How can the singer possibly be 70 when her voice can pass for 40?") She likes the cool jazz of the 1950s, explaining that she hired trumpeter James Magnarelli for his fondness for Chet Baker. Malloy is another singer; has an album of mostly 1950s bop standards called Jazz Vocalist. He appears in duets on 5 songs, and they make a nice pair. Two cuts with just David Epstein on piano. The rest, including all the duets, have Harry Whitaker's piano trio, some with Magnarelli and/or percussionist Samuel Torres added. Good liner notes; solid craftsmanship. B+(*)

Free Fall: The Point in a Line (2006 [2007], Smalltown Superjazz): Third album by Ken Vandermark's trio, featuring the same clarinet-piano-bass lineup as appeared on Jimmy Giuffre's namesake album. Hĺvard Wiik plays Paul Bley, Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten plays Steve Swallow, and Vandermark handles the clarinets. Beyond the lineup, I've never seen much affinity to Giuffre's trio, but I've also never turned into a big fan of the Free Fall album. Still, this is an interesting album on whatever terms apply: Wiik is more pro-active on piano, and Vandermark's aggressiveness is muted by the clarinet's limited volume. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Free Form Funky Freqs: Urban Mythology: Volume One (2007, Thirsty Ear): Guitar improv from Vernon Reid, with Jamaldeen Tacuma reverbing the funk bass and G. Calvin Weston on drums, with extra beeps, bonks and warps plugged in by Reid, but -- they swear -- no guitar, bass, or drum overdubs. Accept it for what little it is and you'll have a nice time. Don't hold your breath for Vol. 2. B+(*)

Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum (2007 [2008], ACT): Fresu's trumpet and flugelhorn finally got an ear when Carla Bley tracked him down last year. This is a good chance to hear more. Lundgren's piano is a little short on rhythmic push, but has to do. At least he punctuates the lushness of Galliano's accordion. Not quite prepared to deal with this right now. Wouldn't be a bad idea for me to revisit Bley's record, either. [B+(***)]

Taeko Fukao: One Love (2006-07 [2008], Flat Nine): Singer, born and raised in Japan, moved to New York in 1998. Sings standards, in English with no accent or affects we might remotely consider oriental. Piano-bass-drums band. Strikes me as utterly conventional -- not a complaint, but not much of a recommendation either. B

Roberta Gambarini & Hank Jones: You Are There (2005 [2008], Emarcy): Italian singer, from Torino. Don't know how old she is, but she seems to have recorded in Italy since 1986 or so. First US release was Easy to Love in 2006, which got a lot of notice, although I missed it. This looks to be import only, at least for now -- it seems like a lot of jazz artists on major labels in Europe and Japan never get picked up here. But it's probably just a matter of time in this case, not only because she's crossed her first hurdle but because her duet partner is something of a name in these parts. Just voice and piano. She sings in remarkable English, marvelous voice, clear and precise, a good ear for detail. The songs are all standards -- "Stardust" and "Lush Life" the most common, the latter as nicely turned out as any I can recall. Also a luscious version of "Just Squeeze Me." Other songs haven't connected yet, partly lack of familiarity. Of course, it's tempting to pick this up just for the pianist, and anyone so inclined won't be disappointed. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Jacob Garchik: Romance (2007 [2008], Yestereve): Trombonist, originally from San Francisco, in New York since 1994. Second album. Side credits include Lee Konitz's New Nonet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars, and Slavic Soul Party. I recall liking Abstracts, his first album, but didn't manage to write more than a note on it -- "free jazz, sharply played." This isn't, even though it's the same trio (Jacob Sacks on piano, Dan Weiss on drums). Slow, arty, even more abstract. Judith Berkson adds her voice to two cuts. More dead weight. B-

Giacomo Gates: Luminous (2007 [2008], Doubledave Music, CD+DVD): Vocalist, born c. 1950 in Connecticut; spent 12 years in Alaska, operating bulldozers and working as a bouncer; caught Sarah Vaughan at a festival in Fairbanks -- she encouraged him, not least to get the hell out of Alaska. Cut his first record in 1995, and now has four. Hype sheet argues that he is "the acknowledged heir to the Eddie Jefferson/Jon Hendricks tradition of jazz singing." He does do some of their vocalese -- the DVD has two Charlie Parker pieces with Jefferson lyrics, and the singer and band's relief at getting through them without stumbling is palpable. They're not my favorite spots on the album, nor is the scat, although both are proficient. What I do like are the talky intros that effortlessly move into song, the idiosyncratic song selection -- one of the best is an original, "Full of Myself," passed off as a bonus track -- and the band's genteel swing. Didn't expect to bother with the DVD until I heard the CD. It's not much -- just four cuts, with a different band, plus interview which rifles through a lot of names. [A-]

Giacomo Gates: Luminosity (2007 [2008], Doubledave Music): Finally, a male jazz singer in "the Eddie Jefferson/Jon Hendricks tradition" I actually enjoy. He talks his way offhandedly into introductions, then slips effortlessly into song. Pulls a couple of gems out like "Hungry Man," and wrote one himself ("Full of Myself" -- of course, he couldn't be). Would even be better if he didn't keep working his way into those vocalese jams, but at least he keeps his cool. Can't say that for any of his obvious competition. B+(***)

Charles Gatschet: Step Lightly (2006 [2007], Barnstorm): Guitarist, from Kansas City, second album. Album cover features mountain waterfalls, stones polished by moving water. Instrumentation is on the lush side, with Ali Ryerson's flute and/or Greg Gisberg's trumpet/flugelhorn prominent over piano, bass, drums, and guitar. Covers are mostly bop-vintage, but Gatschet's originals introduce world beats. B+(**)

Stephen Gauci's Basso Profundo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed): Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966, based in Brooklyn, has appeared on 10+ records since 2001, mostly with bassist Mike Bisio. The group here is a quartet with two basses presumably the source of the name: Bisio and Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten (of various Ken Vandermark bands). The fourth member is trumpeter Nate Wooley, which gives the group a two horn front line. No drummer, but there is some percussion, presumably from tapping on the bass. The horns split free, but they're less interested in fireworks than in coloring. [A-]

Stephen Gauci's Basso Continuo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed): Two basses provide the drive and drone, the phat sonic middle, while two horns -- Gauci's tenor sax, Nat Wooley's trumpet -- work harder at blending in than at standing out. No drums, although now and then you do hear some percussion, probably tapping on the heavy, hollow bass bellies. B+(***)

Chris Gestrin: After the City Has Gone: Quiet (2007, Songlines, 2CD): Canadian pianist, from near Vancouver, graduated from Berklee. Has a mixed bag of side credits (Randy Bachman, Loudon Wainwright III, K-OS, DOA, Nickelback, Swollen Members, Bruno Hubert's B3 Kings), 4 or 5 albums on his own. This is a set of 28 solo, duo, and trio pieces, mostly with other Vancouver musicians I recognize -- Jon Bentley (saxes), JP Carter (trumpet), Ron Samworth (guitar), Gordon Grdina (guitar, dobro), Peggy Lee (cello), Dylan van der Schyff (drums). They are mostly slow, quiet, and abstract -- chance encounters of sound without much thought to melody. Several instruments are prepared and/or processed. Didn't sound like much at first, and it seems like a lot to slog through it all, but I find it growing on me. Should probably keep it pending, but it's been on the shelf a long time already, and I'm doubting I'll find the time it needs. B+(*)

Hans Glawischnig: Panorama (2006 [2008], Sunnyside): Born 1970 in Graz, Austria; his father Dieter Glawischnig, a pianist and NDR Big Band director; his mother a US native. Plays bass. Moved to Boston to study at Berklee, then to New York for Manhattan School of Music. Second album as leader, following an easily overlooked Fresh Sound New Talent album from 2001, but he's played on more than two dozen albums since 1997, often under Latino leaders (Ray Barretto, Miguel Zenon, Luis Perdomo, Dafnis Prieto). This one will be noticed: he's got a name people have been noticing, and a label that will get him more visibility. It has the air of an overelaborate debut: it deploys nine musicians in groups of 3-5, calling in chits and adding to the star power (only 2 of 3 drummers aren't household names, at least chez moi). The small groups work well enough each on its own, but fit uncomfortably together, partly because shifts like alternating alto saxophonists Miguel Zenon and David Binney wind up sounding so much the same. Another example is piano: Chick Corea leads two trios cuts, while Luis Perdomo fills in the groups, a distinction that could be chalked up to different roles rather than different pianists (who all in all aren't all that different). The one cut with Rich Perry's tenor sax does stand in contrast to the six cuts with alto, but comes as an isolated surprise. The unifying thread is the bassist-composer, which is no doubt the plan. Advanced, interesting postbop, informed by Latin jazz but not really part of it. Bass presence but not much solo space. For various good and not so good reasons this is likely to show up in a lot of year-end lists. B+(**)

Drew Gress: The Irrational Numbers (2006 [2008], Premonition): Flash-only website. For a while after I killed off Flash life was good, but I've run into a few of these things lately, and this one pushed me over the edge into complaining. Don't really need to do much research on Gress anyway. He's one of the top bassists in New York, showing up on 6-10 records per year since the early 1990s, including Fred Hersch, Dave Douglas, Tim Berne, John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet), Uri Caine, George Colligan, Marc Copland, Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin, Steve Lehman, Ralph Alessi, many more -- AMG lists about 130 albums. This is the fourth under his own name: his compositions, with an all-star quintet: Berne (alto sax), Alessi (trumpet), Craig Taborn (piano), Tom Rainey (drums). Not sure why I don't like it more: the free form passages are exciting, but most of it consists of intricate postbop layerings, possibly interesting on paper, but hard to follow or get into. B+(*) [Feb. 19]

Grupo Los Santos: Lo Que Somos Lo Que Sea (2007, Deep Tone): A New York quartet not obviously connected to Cuban, let alone Brazilian, music, either by name or instrument: Paul Carlon on tenor sax, Pete Smith on guitar, David Ambrosio on bass, William "Beaver" Bausch on drums. I've been playing this opposite Cachao for, well, a ridiculous number of times, and it's lacking the extra percussion, the choruses, and Chocolate Armenteros' trumpet from the classic stuff, but it holds up awfully well. I've been impressed by Carlon before, but Smith is a revelation, and not just on the two Brazilian pieces (a choro and a samba). Bausch writes about half of the pieces, and may have more up his sleeve than is obvious. There is a bit of extra percussion on two tracks, which credit Max Pollak with "Rumba Tap" -- I think that's tap dancing to a rumba beat. Sounds like it, anyway. A-

Jostein Gulbrandsen: Twelve (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Norwegian guitarist, based in New York since 2001, Manhattan School of Music guy. First album, quartet, with Jon Irabagon (tenor sax, clarinet), Eivind Opsvik (bass), Jeff Davis (drums). First thing I noticed was how much I liked the sax, the way it stretched time out into fractured, disjoint slabs. Turns out I've run across Irabagon before but forgot the name: he's in Moppa Elliott's Mostly Other People Do the Killing, my current leading contender for a pick hit slot. A couple of songs later the guitar came into better focus, but he's hard to pigeonhole -- of the usual list of influences on his MySpace page I only hear Jim Hall and Wolfgang Muthspiel, and not much of either. More strong sax follows. A very bent cover of "Message in a Bottle." A bass solo -- Opsvik is a name I do recall, shows up on a lot of good records. Slow guitar solo to close. Either a strong HM or better. [A-]

Jostein Gulbrandsen: Twelve (2006 [2007] Fresh Sound New Talent): I doubt that I would have noticed the leader's guitar had I not first fallen for Jon Irabagon's tenor saxophone. Irabagon plays in Moppa Elliot's "terrorist bebop band" Mostly Other People Do the Killing, where he has plenty of competition on trumpet. Here he has the field to himself, playing high octane avant-skewed runs that I find utterly captivating. Also a bit of clarinet, much lower keyed. The guitarist adds some licks to the high-speed stuff, but emerges more when the sax quiets down. A-

Frode Haltli: Passing Images (2004 [2007], ECM): Norwegian accordionist, second album, both on ECM. This one with Arve Henriksen on trumpet, Garth Knox on viola, and Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje singing (or vocalizing -- there's not a lot of conventional singing). Songs are evidently folk based, including one by good ole' trad. Dense, dark, minimal sounds; any other trumpet player would bust out of this, but Henriksen provides little more than harmonic overtones to the accordion. Might be worth another play, but the pickings look pretty slim. [B] [advance]

Frode Haltli: Passing Images (2004 [2007], ECM): Accordion, an instrument with folk referents, although this comes closer to chamber music, with trumpet and voice for highlights -- not that there are many -- and viola for extra density. B

Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: On and Off (2007, Skirl): Halvorson plays guitar: grew up in Boston, studied at Wesleyan with Anthony Braxton, works out of Brooklyn. Plays in Braxton's Quintet, Taylor Ho Bynum's Trio and Sextet, her own trio. Pavone plays viola. Also has a relationship with Braxton and Bynum, and has appeared on a couple of Assif Tsahar's records. Also that Vampire Weekend record that's been getting a lot of hype lately. She has a couple of string thing records on her own label. Name reminds me of the great bassist Mario Pavone, but I haven't seen any references. AMG classifies both as Avant-Garde Music, not as Jazz. Fairly abstract chamber music -- not as broken up as on the Bynum album, but no swing or bop. Not an instrumentation I find appealing, plus I usually demur (or worse) from vocals, which both indulge in, but in the end I found this oddly charming. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Brian Harnetty: American Winter (2007, Atavistic): A musician from Ohio, teaches at Kenyon College. This record is built around Berea College's sound archives, a 75+ year collection of Appalachian field recordings, radio programs, and oral history. Some are sung, bringing out the twang of deeply felt voices. Some are just interviews, old stories. A bit of radio broadcast focuses on the WWII draft. Most have been augmented with musical flourishes, mostly percussive. Seems like a highly repeatable formula, but for now it sounds unique. Harnetty's discography lists 17 items since 2003, mostly self-released, this the only one on a label I've heard of. AMG files this as folk, but it's pretty avant for that. [A-]

Matt Haviland: Beyond Good & Evil (2002 [2006], Connotation): Trombone player, born 1961 in Iowa, graduated Berklee in 1983, then moved to New York. Looks like much of his experience is in big bands, with Illinois Jacquet, Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, and Slide Hampton's World of Trombones names that stand out from the list -- for me, anyway; you may be more impressed with Maria Schneider. First album. I'm tempted to call his near-all-star band a hard bop group: Vincent Herring on alto and tenor sax, Benny Green on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, Gene Jackson on drums, plus Scott Wendholt on trumpet for two tracks. Haviland wrote 7 pieces, all but "But Beautiful," Cedar Walton's "Bolivia," and a 1:07 bass intro. Straight stuff, but proficient, heady even. B+(**)

Helena: Fraise Vanille (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Stage name for Helena Noguerra, b. 1969 in Belgium, her parents Portuguese immigrants, her older sister the estimable pop star Lio. Based in Paris. Started as a model. Branched out into acting, music, and has written at least one novel. Bunch of records. This one is a tribute to songwriter Serge Rezvani. With its acoustic guitar it strikes me as folkie, with a lithe eurobeat. B+(*)

Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez: Italuba II (2006 [2007], Cacao Musica): Cuban drummer, b. 1963, came to the US c. 1993, where he's established himself as a superb Latin jazz drummer. AMG talks about Hernandez's early interest in rock, and how that's inflected his drumming. That isn't clear here. What we have instead is a solid Afro-Cuban jazz quartet, with trumpet and piano. Tricky rhythms, shifts, halts, all sorts of unpredictable happenings. No vocals, just jazz. B+(**)

Frank Hewitt: Out of the Clear Black Sky (2000 [2008], Smalls): Fifth posthumous album, another piano trio, cut in two late-night sets live at Smalls. Ari Roland plays bass, Jimmy Lovelace drums. Mostly covers, including two from Rodgers and Hart, Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," Tom Jobim's "The Girl From Ipanema," and two takes of Erroll Garner's "Misty." It's probably a good sign that the more familiar a piece is, the more intriguing Hewitt's machinations become -- "The Girl From Ipanema" is plumbed for ideas instead of atmosphere. Fairly mild-mannered bebop, witty inside stuff, not a lot of flash. People may wonder why Hewitt didn't get noticed, but he didn't do the sort of things that get noticed, nor did he settle into a university and cut records to bolster his résumé. He just hung out in the underground and played stuff. B+(***)

Amos Hoffman: Evolution (2007 [2008], RazDaz/Sunnyside): Israeli guitarist, mostly plays oud now. Spent some time in New York, but is now based in Tel Aviv. Third album. Strong middle eastern flavor, with alto flute (Ilan Salem), bass (Avishai Cohen), and percussion (Ilan Katchka). Cohen contributes an unnecessary vocal, also plays some piano, but the string interplay predominates. B+(**)

Diane Hoffman: My Little French Dancer (2006 [2008], Savsomusic): Singer. Born and raised in Cambridge, MA; passed through California on way to New York. Looks like she has one previous album, although it's not mentioned on her website. (MySpace page shows the first, Someone in Love.) This at least is a straightforward jazz vocal album. She has the voice, the nuances, the sense of humor, the repertoire. Well, almost the repertoire -- songs are a little weak, but at least not beat to death. B+(*)

Maurice Horsthuis: Elastic Jargon (2007 [2008], Data): One thing I've found is that there's usually an exception to any generalization one might make. By now, you know how much I hate the sound of massed violins, how lame I find classical string quartets, maybe even how estranged I feel from so much advanced contemporary composition (or whatever you call it -- maybe only because I get so little opportunity to follow it). Even at best I figure those things are projects, something that, given more exposure and understanding, I might some day learn to sort of like, a little bit at least. But here's an exception: all strings (4 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, double bass, and electric guitar), a very limited pallette with a lot of sawing back and forth, but it's really flowing, with waves of ideas, crashing and bubbling. Need to hold it back as a sanity check. Horsthuis plays viola. He's part of Amsterdam String Trio, which has at least four albums. He's also played with Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra back in the 1980s; also with Han Bennink and Maarten Altena. Group name could be Maurice Horsthuis' Jargon, in which case album name might be Elastic. [A-]

Norman Howard & Joe Phillips: Burn Baby Burn (1968 [2007], ESP-Disk): A trumpet player from Cleveland, Howard's discography was hitherto limited to appearing on two Albert Ayler albums. He recorded two sessions for ESP-Disk in 1968 which weren't released at the time. It isn't clear from the booklet whether this is only the first or includes parts of the second (referred to as "Signals"). (It also isn't clear whether the subject of the first line -- "I was born August 25th of 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio" -- is Howard or writer Michael D. Anderson. Philips plays alto sax -- don't know much more about him. The other musicians are just names: Walter Cliff on bass, Corney Millsap on drums. Before I dug into the booklet, the record struck me as austere free jazz, somewhat old-fashioned, although there are noisy stretches later on. Makes more sense as part of Ayler's undertow, opened up by the lack of a clear leader. An interesting piece of history. B+(**)

Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 [2007], 18th & Vine): Singer; plays a little 7-string guitar, although most of the fine guitar here is credited to Larry Koonse. Website bio has no biographical information, and is otherwise dubious -- "arguably the biggest discovery since Roberta Gambarini"? (FYI, I've never heard Gambarini, although I recognize the name.) Looks like she came from Appalachia, worked in DC and/or NYC, has three previous albums, mostly on Dutch labels, and a favorable entry in Penguin Guide, likening her to Sheila Jordan. I don't hear that here, but haven't heard the earlier albums. She has a clear, clean, articulate voice, and gets unassuming support from a quintet led by pianist Christian Jacob, with Carl Saunders providing finish touches on trumpet and flugelhorn. Record rises and falls on the songs, which include enough melodramatic themes and noirish ballads to turn me off. Could use another play. [B+(*)]

Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 [2007], 18th & Vine): Clear, clean, articulate voice, as good as the songs, which as you know with movie music isn't always that good. But with 13 songs from 42 years (1937-79) they don't sink too far -- the mixed flow is the main distraction. The small group helps, especially Carl Saunders on trumpet/flugelhorn and Larry Koonse on guitar. B+(*)

Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (2007, Fantasy): Guitarist, currently plays a custom-built 7-string guitar cut down from an 8-string. Has recorded prolifically since 1993, including several albums with Bobby Previte as Groundtruther and Stanton Moore and Skerik as Garage a Trois -- including one in my replay queue. This seems about par. He is at the center of a cluster of fusion musicians that combine loping rhythms, funk, and electronics in interesting ways. [B+(**)]

Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (2007, Fantasy): Around the eighth cut, "Special Shirt," it finally dawned on me what this is: jazz bubblegum. Maybe I'm oversimplifying. Title cut came next and it's more phantasmagorical, almost a Pink Floyd instrumental. The 7 or 8 out of 10 cuts are just slinky fusion guitar over cheesy keybs and drums -- pop jazz, but before the dark ages set in. B+(**)

Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Stories Before Within (2007 [2008], Innova): Hwang was born in the US (Waukegan, IL), of Chinese extraction. He made a strong effort to master Chinese classical music, but now works mostly in avant jazz. He plays violin, often with a Chinese inflection. He has several records I've been very impressed by -- e.g., Ravish Momin's Climbing the Banyan Tree. Group here: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Ken Filiano (bass), Andrew Drury (drums). Bynum was a student of Anthony Braxton, and still plays with Braxton -- I've tried to get hold of some of his material, thus far to no avail. Filiano, as I've mentioned many times by now, always seems to show up on good records. Got distracted in the middle of writing this and lost my thread, but I wanted to give it more time anyway. [B+(***)]

Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Stories Before Within (2007 [2008], Innova): Dense shades of Chinese jazz fiddle, tarted up by Taylor Ho Bynum's cornet. Plus bass and drums, of course. B+(***)

The Inhabitants: The Furniture Moves Underneath (2007, Drip Audio): Vancouver group: JP Carter (trumpet), Dave Sikula (guitar), Pete Schmitt (bass), Skye Brooks (drums), with use of effects by the first three. Carter and Brooks are also in Fond of Tigers. Quasi-rockish instrumentals, starting off loud and brash, mellowing out later. The latter pieces with their ripened textures are more pleasing, and marginally more interesting. B

Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): This took a while to sink in. The turning point may been when I flashed on the notion that Iyer is a new generation McCoy Tyner. Iyer has equivalent facility with the keyboard, although he rarely if ever lapses into Oscar Peterson swing -- he draws the line at, well, McCoy Tyner, but more often favors rhythmic repetition and variation rather than line development. Like Tyner, he generally works in a sax quartet, and like Tyner he often overshadows, indeed overpowers, the horn. One might also note that Iyer's saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, has a strong Coltrane-ish streak, but that's not so evident here. Mahanthappa has strong and weak outings, and he didn't make much of a first impression here. He only plays on 7 of 11 cuts, often making little more than a buzz around Iyer's prodigious piano. The trio cuts open up more, not least because they give Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums more room to shine. One solo cut is further dampened, but logically impeccable. A-

The Jack & Jim Show Presents: Hearing Is Believing (2005 [2007], Boxholder): First, I have to admit that I had never heard of Jimmy Carl Black. Turns out that he was best known for being in my least favorite band of the twentieth century, the Mothers of Invention, usually filed under the bandleader's name, Frank Zappa, but his website discography totals 77 albums without getting past 2002. Black played drums, and introduced himself as "the Indian of the group." Later he had a band called Geronimo Black. Anyhow, he's the Jim. Jack must be guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, who I have heard of and rarely heard -- his website discography claims 180 records, so I haven't heard much. Together since 1995 as the Jack & Jim Show they have 8 previous albums. Might as well list them to get a whiff: Locked in a Dutch Coffeeshop, Pachuco Cadaver, Uncle Jimmy's Master Plan, The Early Years, The Perfect C&W Duo's Tribute to Jesse Helms, The Taste of the Leftovers, 2001: A Spaced Odyssey, Reflections and Experiences of Jimi Hendrix. They do a mix of deconstructed parodies (including three Beatles songs; one each from Marvin Gaye, Tim Hardin, and Dizzy Gillespie) and perverse protest songs ("Cheney's Hunting Ducks" is a choice cut, "Girl From Al-Qaeda" is abducted and held hostage from Jobim and Getz). Chadbourne plays some extreme skronk guitar, and Oxford avant-gardist Pat Thomas slums with some amusing keyboards. Title parses as: you won't believe this until you hear it. B+(***)

Keefe Jackson's Project Project: Just Like This (2007, Delmark): Jackson plays tenor sax and bass clarinet. He moved to Chicago from Fayetteville, AR in 2001. Has an earlier record I haven't heard by a small group called Keefe Jackson's Fast Citizens. Project Project is a large improv-oriented band: 5 brass, 5 reeds, bass and drums. Loose, rowdy, occasionally rapturous solos, nothing that stands out much from any number of similar configurations. B+(*)

Grupa Janke Randalu: Live (2007 [2008], Jazz 'n' Arts): Bodek Janke, percussion; Kristjan Randalu, piano. Randalu comes from Estonia. His parents were classical pianists. He studied in Germany and England, then came to New York (Manhattan School of Music) in 2003. Currently splits time between New York and Germany, teaching in Karlsruhe. Sixth album since 2002 (first I've heard). Janke is Polish, b. 1972, based in New York, "a cultural commuter between the USA, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland and Germany," with a wide range of folk and world as well as jazz influences. This flows well, is consistently engaging; may be a little more percussive without a bass, but doesn't seem lacking. First rate, but one I haven't pinned down yet. [B+(**)]

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Setting Standards: New York Sessions (1983 [2008], ECM, 3CD): Born 1945, Jarrett started recording in 1966, minor bits with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, a major role in Charles Lloyd's quartet at their popular peak. His own records start in 1967 with Life Between the Exit Signs, and picked up the pace in the 1970s when he juggled two distinctive quarters, one US-based with Dewey Redman on Impulse, the other Europe-based with Jan Garbarek on ECM, while recording bunches of solo piano records, most famously The Köln Concert, which at five million copies is probably the best-selling jazz album ever. He had rarely played in piano trios, but put one together for a set of standards in January 1983 -- actually, he revived the trio that recorded Gary Peacock's Tales of Another in 1977, with Jack DeJohnette on drums. He dubbed them the Standards Trio, but more than two decades and two dozen later they're just The Trio. The sessions produced two volumes of Standards and a set of original improvs released as Changes -- now all conveniently boxed for their 25th anniversary. The songbook is neither obvious nor numerous -- 11 songs, averaging 8 minutes, with "God Bless the Child" spread out to 15:32, mostly because they found so much to work out. A turning point in an illustrious career, but more beginning than peak. B+(**)

Stanley Jordan: State of Nature (2008, Mack Avenue): Another well-known guitarist, one I've paid even less attention to than Metheny -- I have him filed under pop jazz, which may or may not be fair. Jordan had a run on Blue Note 1984-90 with at least one gold record, but hasn't recorded much since. Not much info to go with this advance copy: no musician credits, although Charnett Moffett, David Haynes, and Kenwood Dennard are somewhere, and there is something about Jordan playing guitar and piano simultaneously. Piano is fairly prominent on some pieces, including Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" and the quasi-classical "Healing Waves." Some of the guitar is quite elegant -- don't have an ear for his famous "tapping" method, which doesn't seem much in play. Mix bag of pieces, ranging from Latin to Mozart. Might as well wait for more info. [B+(*)] [advance: Apr. 22]

Plamen Karadonev: Crossing Lines (2007 [2008], Mu): Pianist (also plays keyboards and accordion), from Bulgaria, where he studied at the Academy of Music and played for the National Radio Big Band. Got a scholarship to Berklee in Boston, where he's currently based. First album: in fact, a good example of what we might call First Album Syndrome, where a new artist tries to show off as many friends, connections, styles, and skills as possible. Originals, covers (Cole Porter, John Coltrane, Ivan Lins), a take on Schuman, expansive piano pieces, two guest shots for trombonist Hal Crook and two more for saxophonist George Garzone, three cuts with vocals by Elena Koleva. The individual pieces are impressive enough -- even the rather limited vocals come through. Garzone, of course, is always a treat, but the piano more than holds up, and the accordion solo on the Lins piece is lovely. B+(*)

Kassaba: Dark Eye (2007, CDBaby): Group, quartet, seems to be based in Cleveland. Group has two pianists, Candice Lee and Greg Slawson, who alternate, doubling on percussion. Bassist Chris Vance and saxophonist Mark Boich also have percussion credits (they claim "25 exotic percussion instruments"). Lee is originally from Edmonton (Alberta, that's Canada), but got her music degrees at Cleveland Institute of Music. Vance hails from Buffalo, the rest from Cleveland, although Boich studied at Berklee -- another George Garzone student. They claim inspiration from jazz, classical, and world music. The loose world beats are beguiling, especially when Boich blows abstractly against the grain. The closer, "Hin Rizzy," makes their classical case -- feels kinda static to me, like Bach. [B+(***)]

Stacey Kent: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007, Blue Note): Vocalist, originally from New Jersey, studied comparative lit at Sarah Lawrence in New York, and took her degree to England, where she married saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and stepped into what's evidently a very successful singing career. Looks like she has ten records since 1997. This is the first I've heard, and it's sent me up and down. She has an attractive voice, thin, clear, with nary a hint of the mannerisms so many jazz singers cultivate. The settings are spare, mostly keyed off the guitar, with Tomlinson's sax mostly limited to breaks. Two covers -- "Hard-Hearted Hannah" and "What a Wonderful World" -- are exceptionally reserved. Four songs have lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Three songs are in French -- the first two especially beguiling. Penguin Guide: "Problem is, the singer has simply repeated the formula across each subsequent record, and given her temperate approach they've taken on a soundalike quality." SFFR. [B+(**)]

Stacey Kent: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007, Blue Note): An art singer, or perhaps a pop singer in an alternate universe, which may be the England and France that adopted this New Jersey native. Doesn't write, but four songs are originals, written by husband-saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, an often impressive combination. The title track is a richly detailed recipe for putting heartbreak aside. She has an interesting knack for repertoire, taking "Hard Hearted Hannah" and "What a Wonderful World" slow enough to reveal details you missed before. Three songs in French: a samba and two by Serge Gainsbourg. B+(***)

Carla Kihlstedt/Satoko Fujii: Minamo (2002-05 [2007], Henceforth): Violin-piano duo. Kihlstedt is best known for her work in Tin Hat, although she's shown up in a number of contexts, including ROVA's latest assault on Ascension. The first three tracks, totalling 20 minutes, were recorded as an opening act for a ROVA concert in San Francisco. The final 28:40 tracks was recorded at Wels in Austria. The latter set meshes better, probably because the violinist is more aggressive. The pianist can brawl with the best of them, but she tends to hold back when not provoked. Which is OK too, in the limited way of duos. B+(**)

Frank Kimbrough: Air (2003-07 [2008], Palmetto): Pianist, part of the Jazz Composers Collective circle in New York. Has 8-10 records since 1988, plus a fair amount of session work -- his role in Maria Schneider's orchestra may be a draw. I've heard a couple, and haven't heard much in them. This solo set started promising, but didn't sustain my interest. But that's usually the case with solo piano, so I'm not sure what this proves. B

Omer Klein: Introducing Omer Klein (2007 [2008], Smalls): Pianist, from Netanya, Israel, studied at New England Conservatory in Boston, moved to New York in 2006. Despite the title here, he has a previous album called Duet with bassist Haggai Cohen Milo on Fresh Sound New Talent -- a nice, quiet, intimate introduction to his style. This is a trio with Omer Avital on bass (and one track oud) and Ziv Ravitz on drums, plus extra percussion by Itamar Doari. One result is that this is much more upbeat. Klein even breaks out in a vocal at one point, not a highlight. Should give it some more time. [B+(**)]

Omer Klein: Introducing Omer Klein (2007 [2008], Smalls): Let me start with one more pitch for Klein's earlier Duet with bassist Haggai Cohen Milo, on Fresh Sound New Talent a couple years back. That's where I got introduced, and was impressed with his subtle melodicism. Still, this is an advance, and not just because added drums and percussion push a much more upbeat rhythm -- actually, bassist Omer Avital may have as much as anyone to do with that. B+(***)

The Klobas/Kesecker Ensemble: No Gravity (2007 [2008], KKEnsemble): Bay Area group. Klobas plays bass, has a classical background as well as some jazz credits, teaches at Cal State Hayward. Kesecker plays vibes and marimba. He's played with Zakir Hussain in the past, and Hussain returns the favor here, gaining a front cover "guest artist" notice. Hussain's tabla doesn't stand out all that much, but contributes to the fertile rhythms. The non-guest who does stand out is saxophonist Gene Burkert. He's credited with woodwinds here, given no further specifics. His tenor sax powers through the first piece, the perfect foil for the rhythmic accents. His other horns are less impressive, but the record picks up whenever the tenor returns. Having trouble (some merely technical) getting more info on these guys. Fun record. Amusing cover shot -- grins well deserved. B+(**)

Adam Kolker: Flag Day (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Played this a bunch of times over the last week, and the least I can say is that it proved to be an exceptionally satisfying tonic. B. 1958, New York, currently teaches at U. Mass. (Amherst). Also plays flute and clarinet, but sticks to tenor sax here. Several albums since 1999, including one called Sultanic Verses, but this is first I've heard. Was part of Orange Then Blue in late 1980s; played regularly with Ray Barretto from 1994. Seems amenable to big bands -- press mentions Gil Evans, Maria Schneider, Kenny Wheeler, Village Vanguard Orchestra, Jazz Composers Octet -- but this is a slim little quartet, with guitarist John Abercrombie and drummer Paul Motian doing subtle things on the side, bassist John Hebert even more inscrutable in the background. Kolker has a soft, airy tone, with oblique lines that slip past everything else. Still on the fence here, unsure this is substantial enough, but thus far it hits the spot. [A-]

Adam Kolker: Flag Day (2007 [2008], Sunnyside): Very pleasing, easily listenable sax quartet, where three notable sidemen each have something distinctive to add: John Abercrombie on guitar, John Hebert on bass, Paul Motian on drums. Mellow sax, subtle surprises. B+(***)

Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band: Portology (2006 [2007], Omnitone): Konitz came in #3 in Downbeat's Hall of Fame ballot last year, behind recently deceased Andrew Hill and Michael Brecker (who got in on the popular ballot) and ahead of still ticking (actually, like Konitz, still working) Hank Jones. Unless someone important dies, he should be next in line. (Jackie McLean, embarrassingly, wasn't even on the ballot when he died, then lept to the top of the list.) It's taken him a long time, but he's never been anywhere near the mainstream. Early on he was way ahead of his time -- looking back I'm tempted to call his 1949-50 Subconscious-Lee the first great postbop album -- and even when time caught up he remained sui generis. Even in the middle of a big band built for camouflage it's trivial to pick him out. On the other hand, don't know much about Ohad Talmor, who is here billed as conductor, arranger, musical director, and co-composer. He was born in France of Israeli parents, grew up in Switzerland, moved to New York in 1995. Plays tenor sax in his own groups, but works more as arranger/director in projects with Konitz and Steve Swallow. I dudded his Swallow project record. Haven't heard his previous work with Konitz. This one makes use of an extant big band from Portugal, Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, which I've previously on an album with Chris Cheek that I also disliked. So I'm inclined not only to credit this to Konitz but to give him extra credit for degree of difficulty. Or maybe I should save it for another spin. [B+(**)] [advance]

Ted Kooshian's Standard Orbit Quartet (2007 [2008], Summit): Kooshian is a pianist, originall from California, since 1987 in New York. Plays in Ed Palermo's big band. Second album under his own name. Standard Orbit Quartet includes Jeff Lederer on saxophones/clarinets, Tom Hubbard on bass, Warren Doze on drums. The standards include a few rock songs (Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," the Police's "Message in a Bottle," Peter Babriel's "Don't Give Up") and a bunch of TV and movie themes ("Top Cat," "Captain Kangaroo," "The Simpsons," "Batman," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Bullitt," "Spider Man," etc.). Plenty of opportunities for laughs, but they play it pretty straight and come up with an exceptionally listenable mainstream jazz album. B+(*)

Piers Lawrence Quartet: Stolen Moments (2007 [2008], JazzNet Media): Guitarist, born New York, raised San Francisco, studied in Switzerland, now back in New York. First album. Quartet is filled out with Chuk Fowler on piano, Jim Hankins on bass, Sir Earl Grice on drums, all unknowns to me. Three originals, plus covers from Sonny Rollins, Oliver Nelson, Charlie Parker, Sammy Fain/Paul Francis, Jaco Pastorius. Lawrence has a nice sound on elegant lines that work well with the piano. Very pleasant album. B+(**) [Mar. 1]

Jerry Leake: Vibrance: Jazz Vibes & World Percussion (2005-06 [2008], Rhombus Publishing): Leake teaches percussion with an insatiable desire to span the world, writes books about it, and produces CDs that could function as textbooks. Although vibraphone is front and center here, his credits include a couple dozen other percussion objects from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The only other players are Jonathan Dimond on electric bass and Lisa Leake with a couple of rather odd vocals -- two Jobim songs in the first semester ("Theme 1: jazz/latin & world percussion") and "My Funny Valentine" in the second ("Theme 2: standard jazz"). The extras tend to distract. Lots of everything here, but short on focus. Leake has an interesting approach to vibes. B

Joăo Lencastre's Communion: One! (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Portuguese drummer, don't have much to go on, but MySpace page lists "Jazz/Drum & Bass/Experimental." His group here is a quintet with Phil Grenadier (trumpet), Bill Carrothers (piano), André Matos (guitar), and Demian Cabaud (bass). For a quintet this is a rather lean and mean group with a very spare sound -- the trumpet is lean with no other horns to harmonize, and Carrothers is an edgy pianist. Matos is also Portuguese, although he lived in Boston for a few years, studying at New England Conservatory. [B+(**)]

Joăo Lencastre's Communion: One! (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Recorded at the Hot Club de Portugal, with a couple of well-known Americans -- trumpeter Phil Grenadier and pianist Bill Carothers -- in the drummer's band. Covers from Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, George Gershwin, and Bjork, sandwiching group improvs. Postbop, a little slow and fussy for my taste, but full of interesting little details. B+(**)

Jamie Leonhart: The Truth About Suffering (2008, Sunnyside): Singer-songwriter, sharing some/most credits with pianist-husband Michael Leonhart. Born in New York, granddaughter of a cantor. Debut album, not counting a self-released EP that AMG lists first. Doesn't sound all that jazzy, but at least one jazz vocal niche is pure marketing accident: a few club dates, a jazz label, who knows? Sounds better when I listen closely, and I can't say that I gave it a fair hearing. Not something I'm much interested in. B

David Liebman/Roberto Tarenzi/Paolo Benedettini/Tony Arco: Dream of Nite (2005 [2007], Verve): Never got a final copy of this. I gather from the cover scan Liebman is David, not Dave, like my copy of the credits says. Also looks like it was originally released on EmArcy in Italy, then picked up by Verve here, and came out last November. Recorded in Italy, live (I think), with a local group, none of whom I recognize. Pianist Tarenzi wrote two tunes; if drummer Arco is the same as A. Arcodia, he wrote one also. Last two pieces are Liebman's, and they do one from M. Davis. Benedettini plays double bass. The band is pretty sharp, especially Tarenzi, and they keep Liebman on his postbop toes. For once, I can't even complain about the soprano. B+(*) [advance]

Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch: When Good Things Happen to Bad Pianos (2007 [2008], Dutro Jnana): Singer with piano accompaniment, and sometimes a little more. Wallfisch is the pianist, credited with "Steinway upright in a flooded basement, synthesizers, guitars, bass and percussion." Cover has photos of some pretty wrecked pianos. Wallfisch has a tattered list of rock credits: Love and Rockets, Congo Norvell, Firewater, Botanica, Gene Loves Jezebel, Sylvain Sylvain, Silos, Thomas Truax, as well as a previous Little Annie album called Songs From a Coalmine Canary. Little Annie is Annie Bandez, aka Annie Anxiety, or some combination thereof (e.g., Little Annie Anxiety Bandez). She started out in front of a group called Annie and the Asexuals. Don't know how old she is, but she has a long list of solo recordings going back to 1981. Cracked, strained voice, sometimes passing for character, sometimes falling into comedy, often depending on the song: "It Was a Very Good Year," "Song for You," "Private Dancer," "One for My Baby," "Yesterday When I Was Young," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," etc. One original. I'm amused, just not sure how far I'm willing to fall. [B+(**)]

Little Annie & Paul Wallfisch: When Good Things Happen to Bad Pianos (2007 [2008], Durtro Jnana): The former leader of Annie and the Asexuals, a/k/a Annie Anxiety or sometimes even Annie Bandez. Rough, rockish voice, more attitude than art, but that suffices, especially on songs that pay dividends in kitsch -- "Song for You," "Private Dancer," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," but also "Yesterday When I Was Young" and "It Was a Very Good Year" and "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)." Wallfisch plays piano. Doesn't live up to the destruction of the cover photos. Probably just as well. B+(**)

Charles Lloyd Quartet: Rabo de Nube (2007 [2008], ECM): The young rhythm section -- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass, Eric Harland on drums -- were born a good decade into Lloyd's career, and are if anything more mainstream, but no slouches when it comes to running a groove. The live date in Basel is relatively conventional for Lloyd as well: Coltrane tenor sax, a boppish alto flute feature, a little exotica on the tarogato. All originals, except for the title cut from Silvio Rodriguez, a nice chill down piece. B+(**)

Rob Lockart: Parallel Lives (2006 [2007], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, based in Los Angeles. Looks like his first album, although he has a couple dozen side credits going back to 1989 -- mostly with folks I don't know, but Bob Sheppard returns the favor for a one cut sax duet here, and Larry Koonse drops in for another cut. Otherwise this is a quartet, with Bill Cunliffe on piano, Jeff DiAngelo on bass, Joe La Barbera on drums. They have a big, boisterous hard bop sound. It's fun for a while, but ultimately not all that interesting. B

The Joe Locke Quartet: Sticks and Strings (2007 [2008], Jazz Eyes): No piano for once, actually a nice change of pace. The strings are Jonathan Kreisberg's electric and acoustic guitars and Jay Anderson's bass. The sticks would be drummer Joe La Barbera and the vibraphonist. The mix is unusual, with Kreisberg providing texture and Locke accents. (AMG compares this to Gary Burton/Pat Metheny, which if memory serves isn't right at all.) [B+(**)]

The Joe Locke Quartet: Sticks and Strings (2007, Jazz Eyes): Even handed: Locke's vibes and Joe La Barbera's drums count as sticks; Jay Anderson's bass and Jonathan Kreisberg's guitar provide the strings. Kreisberg is very appealing here, both on acoustic and electric, and the contrast to the vibes works nicely. B+(***)

Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2007 [2008], Blue Note): Guitarist, born in Benin, moved to Côte d'Ivoire, then to Paris, then to Boston (Berklee), then to California (Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz), now seems to be based in Bergen County, NJ. He's appeared in quite a few credits since 2001, including some relatively high profile ones -- Terence Blanchard, Charlie Haden (Land of the Sun), Herbie Hancock (The River: The Joni Letters). This is a trio with bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth -- mostly: he also picks up a pair of distinguished guests, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, one cut together, one more each. Mixed bag, especially when he sings, but the closer "Nonvignon" is my favorite track here, and he sings on it -- reminds me of pennywhistle jive. [B+(*)]

Wendy Luck: See You in Rio (2006, Wendy Luck Music): Singer, also plays flute. Third album. AMG classifies her as new age, which indicates the flute came first. Sort of a wispy blonde voice, attractive enough, unmannered and carefree on lightweight Brazilian fare. One long quasi-classical flute feature, "Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5" by Heitor Villa-Lobos, is neither here nore there. B-

Frank Macchia: Landscapes (2007 [2008], Cacophony): Saxophonist, from San Francisco, went to Berklee in 1976, returning in 1981, currently residing in Burbank, where he's done orchestration on 30-40 films (first three on list: Superman Returns, 300, The Bee Movie). Created a series of "horror stories with music" called Little Evil Things. Has a pile of records since he started releasing them himself. This is his second to feature the Prague Orchestra. Several old chestnuts, many by Trad., sentimental and/or corny, wrap around his six-part original "Landscapes Suite -- for Saxophone & Orchestra." Nice tone on the sax. Can't say anything nice about the Prague Orchestra. C+

Raymond MacDonald/Günter "Baby" Sommer: Delphinius & Lyra (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): MacDonald is a alto/soprano saxophonist from Scotland. Has a group called the Burt-MacDonald Quintet ("one of the most adventurous jazz groups in Scotland"; Burt is guitarist George), and plays in the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, a/k/a GIO. MacDonald is pretty obscure, but Sommer has been one of the main drummers of Europe's avant-garde over the last three decades, despite spending much of that time in the GDR. His own discography is thin, but includes a number of notable duos, especially with Cecil Taylor and Irčne Schweizer. He brings a lot to this duo, even when the main thing you hear is MacDonald's piercing squall. One section erupts in shouts. These guys are having a blast. [B+(***)]

Raymond MacDonald/Günter Baby Sommer: Delphinius & Lyra (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): Duo, free saxophone (mostly alto, some soprano) over drums. MacDonald is little known but worth following if you're into this sort of thing. Sommer is a veteran avant-gardist, his discography including previous duos with Cecil Taylor and Irčne Schweizer -- a good partner for this sort of thing. B+(**)

Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 [2007], Black Tri): Young (b. 1983) tenor saxophonist, from Los Angeles, part Chinese, studied at Manhattan School of Music under Steve Slagle and Dick Oatts. In a quartet here with folks I don't know, with trumpet and flute added for one song. I didn't expect much, but he's got a distinct sound, and maneuvers easily around tricky postbop. Pianist Miro Sprague holds his own as well. [B+(**)] [Aug. 1]

Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 [2007], Black Tri): Young tenor saxophonist with a distinctive sound and plenty of chops, leading a young postbop group with a pretty good pianist named Miro Sprague. B+(*)

Machan: Motion of Love (2007, Nu Groove): Singer, plays guitar, writes her own songs. As far as I can tell -- numerous expletives about Flash, MySpace, etc. deleted -- she comes from Japanese parents, grew up in the US, and, well, hell if I know. Says somewhere she was inspired by Joni Mitchell and James Taylor; she's appeared with Pink Floyd and George Benson, and toured with Sting (presumably as a backup singer). Second album. Some jazz players on board here, such as John Scofield, Randy Brecker, John Medeski, Nanny Assis. Sounds like a pop record to me, but with a cool breezy groove. B+(*)

Sean Malone: Cortlandt (1996 [2007], Free Electric Sound): Malone plays fretless bass and stick (aka Chapman Stick, a fretboard with 8-12 strings combining bass and guitar ranges with a few other tricks), and contributes programming to most cuts. He's appeared in the groups Cynic and Gordian Knot. Minor fusion pieces, most with extra guitar and drums; originals plus a few others, like one by Bach and another from Coltrane. B+(*)

Manhattan New Music Project: Performs Paul Nash: Jazz Cycles (2004 [2007], MNNP): Two Paul Nash entries in Wikipedia, neither right in this case. This Paul Nash is a composer, educator, jazz guitarist, born 1948, died 2005. He founded the 10-piece Paul Nash Ensemble in 1977. After some time in Bay Area, he returned to New York in 1990 and founded the Manhattan New Music Projec, which survives him. Seven piece postbop group with some names: trumpet (Shane Endsley), saxes (Bruce Williamson and Tim Ries), piano (Jim Ridl), guitar (Vic Juris), bass (Jay Anderson), drums (Grisha Alexiev). Suite-type material. The horns are pretty sharp, and the rhythm section moves gracefully. B+(**)

Chuck Manning: Notes From the Real (2005-06 [2008], TCB): Tenor saxophonist, born 1958, based in Los Angeles, first album under his own name, but has a 1991 record listed under Ecklinger/Manning Quintet, at least three with Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, and various side credits, especially with James Carney, Elliott Caine, Bil Cunliffe, and Darek Oleskiewicz. I'm sure I've heard him along the way. He has a huge sound, sort of a throwback to guys who would just bowl you over, like Illinois Jacquet. Quartet here: Jim Szilagyi on piano, Isla Eckinger (of his early quintet) on bass, Tim Pleasant on drums. Straightforward, perhaps to a fault, but I wouldn't complain much. B+(*)

Keith Marks: Foreign Funk (2006 [2008], Markei): Reported to be "a 35 year veteran of the entertainment business," but this looks like the first album under his name. AMG has some very scattered credits: Beaver Harris, Jerry Goodman, Tommy Shaw, Wishbone Ash, Styx. Harris is pretty obscure these days, but he was a drummer with a pan-African orientation working on the avant fringes, leading a group called The 360 Degree Music Experience. Someone could make something out of that. As for the others, I guess money's green. Marks plays flute. He gets a nice airy sound out of it, and it's not really the problem, although it is kind of limited. The problem is the songs, which pace the title cut, are neither foreign (world would be more politically correct, and for once smarter to boot) nor funky: low points include "Mission Impossible," "Eleanor Rigby," and that old Seals & Croft barfer, "Summer Breeze." B- [Apr. 1]

Thomas Marriott: Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (2006 [2008], Origin): From Seattle, plays trumpet and flugelhorn, has 3 albums since 2005 (not counting his Xmas album, The Cool Season). Quintet with Mark Taylor on sax, Ryan Burns on Moog or Fender Rhodes, Geoff Harper on bass, Matt Jorgensen on drums. The process is similar to what Jewels & Binoculars has done with Bob Dylan, but the extra horn and keyboards generate a lot of excess filigree, complicating the melodies and camouflaging the improvisation. "Crazy" itself, of course, is indelible enough to hold up, and there are other sweet spots. B+(*)

Virginia Mayhew Septet: A Simple Thank You (2007 [2008], Renma): Saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano here. b. 1959 San Francisco, based in New York since 1987. Sixth album. Might as well think of the Septet as a small big band: the hornplay, with two brass and two reeds, is constant and complex; the rhythm of guitar, bass and drums is inconspicuous but capable of pushing the horns hard. Best thing here is the closer, "Sandan Shuffle," for just that reason. Didn't much care for the intricate postbop until then, but going back I find more hot spots, including a rousing "Rhtyhm-A-Ning." B+(**)

Fergus McCormick: I Don't Need You Now (2008, CDBaby): I used to get a couple of country albums per month, mostly alt/obscure stuff, good for a couple of A-list albums per year, including some things hardly anyone else noticed. Sometimes I think that if Christgau had asked me to do a Country Consumer Guide instead of a Jazz Consumer Guide, I'd have been just as happy, and in the long run it'd have been a lot less work. As it is, the jazz has been crowding out everything else, and now I'm down to, well, this may be the only country-ish album I've gotten this year. It doesn't belong here, but I don't have anywhere else to put it either. Singer-songwriter, based in New York; Wikipedia describes him as British-American, but he grew up in Flemington NJ, played in Princeton, went to college at Reed in Portland OR, toured from Colorado to Maine, the north of England to east Africa and Rio de Janeiro. Third album. No evidence that he spent any time trying to come up with a label name. Guitar-centered, easy strum, although there's piano, bass, drums, strings even. Soft tone to his voice, some topical songs including one for New Orleans, and smart personal stuff. B+(**)

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: First Flight (2006 [2007], Summit): Trombonist, born 1963, based in New York since 1986, most of his credits are with big bands, starting with DMP Big Band's Glenn Miller Project, with Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden and Mike Holober's Thought Trains among the highlights. Hype sheet also connects him to the Lionel Hampton Band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, and the Jimmy Heath Big Band. John Fedchock wrote his liner notes, and he's got a half dozen or so New York musicians I recognize in the band, including pianist Holober. Pretty slick as these big bands go. McGuinness also sings on two cuts, including a run of scat. B+(**)

Marian McPartland: Twilight World (2007 [2008], Concord Jazz): A piano trio, with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Glenn Davis on drums -- not names I recognize, and not all that important here. A hard record for me to judge, not just because I rarely have much to say about piano trios, but also because this is so straight mainstream it's hard to discern anything that signifies this is jazz -- except her erudition and fine sense of musicality. B+(**)

Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 [2008], Smalls): Drummer. First album, but has an impressive list of credits starting around 1990. Studied with Jackie McLean, and has some sort of relationship to Max Roach (M'Boom). Other credits include: Jesse Davis, Abraham Burton, Myron Walden, Avishai Cohen, Steve Lehman, Jeremy Pelt, Luis Perdomo, Andrew Hill, Steve Davis, Jason Lindner, Charnett Moffett. Burton was the name that caught my eye. An alto saxophonist with roots in Belize, he cut two of the best albums of the 1990s (on Enja, look for 1995's The Magician) but has scarcely been heard from since. He appears here, playing tenor and soprano as well as alto, plus a bit of flute, and he's rivetting on all but the flute. Relatively short at 39:39, cut over three sessions with two bassists and occasional guests, this is a little scattered, but the pieces are interesting in their own right. Carla Cherry does a spoken word piece over drums and Trevor Todd's yirdaki (Australian instrument, may or may not be same as didgeridoo). One cut subs Shimrit Shoshan's Fender Rhodes for David Bryant's piano. But mostly, hope to hear more from Burton. B+(***)

José Alberto Medina/JAM Trio: In My Mind (2007, Fresh Sound New Talent): Medina is a pianist, originally from the Canary Islands, now in Barcelona. JAM is presumably just his initials. A previous album, First Portrait, with the same credit used different players at bass and drums. This time they are Paco Weht and Mariano Steimberg. Don't know either of them, but Steimberg has a MySpace page, says he's based in Barcelona, influenced by Miles Davis and Squarepusher, credits include programming as well as drums. One song here has a vocal by Oscar Aresi. Medina has a light touch and lovely tone, and this works nicely within the piano trio format. B+(**)

Brad Mehldau Trio: Live (2006 [2008], Nonesuch, 2CD): I thought I might use the last week of the cycle to stream some records I never got -- the paranoid idea being that I might pounce on one or two for my Duds list. But to stream them, I have first to think of them, and this was the first that popped into my mind. I haven't gotten any of Mehldau's releases since Jazz CG started, although the publicist has been more/less supportive in general. (Bill Frisell's records have also been hard to come by, but they send me the Black Keys, so what can I say?) In some ways it's just as well. With few exceptions, Mehldau works trio or solo, and I often have trouble there. Mehldau is probably the biggest star to come out of the Fresh Sound New Talent series, and he made a tremendous splash when Introducing Brad Mehldau came out on Warner Bros. I concurred, but the following five Art of the Trio volumes left me increasingly speechless -- I think Vol. 5 is still unplayed (at least unrated) somewhere on a shelf here, and that's the last I have. I don't doubt that he is one of the major jazz pianists of the age, but he's so unidiosyncratic he's hard to characterize, and so consistent he's hard to sort. Larry Grenadier has been his bassist since 1995. Jeff Ballard plays drums, replacing Jorge Rossy sometime between 2002 and 2005. They take 12 songs deep here, the shortest the opener at 8:44, longest "Black Hole Sun" at 23:30, most in the 10-15 minute range. I got the most mileage out of "The Very Thought of You," no doubt because it was the most familiar song. Too long to digest, so pleasant and thoughtful and moderate it folds readily into the background. No doubt the sound is better on disc. Grades on streamed records are necessarily swags, but will hold for now. At some point I have some catching up to do with Mehldau. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Giacomo Merega/David Tronzo/Noah Kaplan: The Light and Other Things (2006 [2008], Creative Nation Music): Merega plays electric bass, came from Genoa in Italy to Boston and on to Brooklyn. Tronzo is a guitarist, originally from Rochester. He's almost invariably described as a legend. I've heard very little by him, and have come to no firm conclusions. Kaplan also came to Brooklyn via Boston, with California his starting point. He plays tenor and soprano sax. Both Merega and Tronzo are credited prepared as well as unadulterated instruments. They produce grungy, abstract string sounds. Kaplan can either riff over them or try to blend in. It's the sort of thing we used to think might be really interesting if we had really good drugs. I don't, but I'm moderately amused nonetheless. B+(*)

Pat Metheny: Day Trip (2005 [2008], Nonesuch): Guitarist, from the Kansas City suburbs, cut his first record in 1975, has worked steady ever since, about as big a star as any jazz guitarist can be. (Don't have any sales figures, so that's just a guess.) I've never been much of a jazz guitar fan, and I've paid him especially scant attention over the years -- just 6 records in my database, including the great Ornette Coleman vehicle Song X and a bunch of stuff I didn't care for, most of which can be blamed on Lyle Mays' cheezy keybs. No Mays here: just Christian McBride on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums, giving this a lean sound, reminiscent of Metheny's Charlie Haden duo, Beyond the Missouri Sky. The clarity is certainly welcome, although I'm still on terra incognita. [B+(***)]

Pat Metheny: Day Trip (2005 [2008], Nonesuch): The bad news is that Metheny's got not just his own face but his whole trio on the April 2008 cover of Downbeat. Early on in Jazz CG history I noticed that there was a strong correlation between my duds list and Downbeat's cover. Incidentally, it's usually been the case that I had nailed the records before the Downbeat covers appeared, although with Jazz CG's notorious lag time it may have looked otherwise. I've never been a Metheny fan -- never been much of a guitar fan, although I can point to exceptions -- and he certainly qualifies as big enough to fail. On the other hand, when I put this on this morning I figured it for an Honorable Mention, not a Dud. Four plays later it's Neither. I like the simple framework Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez provide, and the small figure guitar lines, but I can't get excited about either. B+(**)

Hendrik Meurkens: Sambatropolis (2007 [2008], Zoho): Parents were Dutch, but he was born in Hamburg, Germany. Studied at Berklee, became fascinated with Brazilian music in early 1980s, and has played little else since. Started on vibraphone, but that's become his second instrument now (5 of 11 tracks), behind harmonica. Has 17 albums since 1990, the new title a neat bookend to his first, either Sambahia (according to AMG) or Sambaimportado (his website). They seem to be averaging out. While he brings a new instrument to Brazilian music, he winds up just folding it into the signature light beat and lazy melodies. B

Miles . . . From India: A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis (2007 [2008], Times Square/4Q, 2CD): Can't find the paperwork on this one either. I finally surmised that this is an advance copy, but it came in a jewel case with enough of a booklet to sort out the rudiments. Album concept: Yusuf Gandhi and Bob Belden. Arranged by: Bob Belden and Louiz Banks. Produced by: Bob Belden. I filed it under Belden, but he doesn't play on it. The songs are by Miles Davis, excepting the title track by John McLaughlin (who evidently produced it independent of Belden). I count 35 musicians, none on all tracks. Some Davis alumni pop up: Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Gary Bartz, Dave Liebman, Michael Henderson, Marcus Miller, McLaughlin, Pete Cosey, Mike Stern, Jimmy Cobb. Also a bunch of Indian musicians: Badal Roy (tabla), U. Srinivas (mandolin), and Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto sax) among the few that I recognize. Wallace Roney plays some trumpet. Looks like at least some of the group will be touring, at least to New York and San Francisco. The fusion has many appealing moments, with Kala Ramnath's violin most effective at extending and relocating the melodies. Don't much care for the scattered vocals. [B+(**)] [advance: Apr. 15]

Marcus Miller: Marcus (2008, Concord Jazz): Two cuts in (called "Blast" and "Funk Joint") I wondered whether his minimalist bass fuzz would sustain interest at album length. Three cuts I got a negative answer, in the form of vocalist Corrine Bailey. I could have gone longer, but he didn't. Fourth cut fuzzed up Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Fifth cut guest slots Keb' Mo': 'nuff said. More fuzz, especially on pieces he was inspired to call "Pluck" and "Strum." More guests. "When I Fall in Love" is semi-amusing; "What Is Hip?" isn't. Closes with a second take of "Lost Without U" with Lalah Hathaway singing, an improbable and mostly fuzzless choice cut. B [Rhapsody]

Yoko Miwa Trio: Canopy of Stars (2004 [2007], P.J.L): Pianist, from Japan, based in Boston since 1996, has a couple of previous albums. Her website quotes what I wrote about her 2004 album Fadeless Flower: "Young mainstream piano trio aim for clean sound, delicate balance, inconspicuous beauty." Trio this time includes Massimo Biolcati on bass, Scott Goulding on drums (repeating from last time). Not much more to add other than that she mixes it up a bit more, including a tango and a waltz. B+(*)

Fabio Morgera: Need for Peace (2007, Smalls): Trumpeter, b. 1963 in Naples Italy, moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and on to New York in 1990. Has 7 or more albums under his own name, plus a parallel track since 1990 working with acid jazz group Groove Collective. The key fact here is that half of the 16 songs have vocals, but they are sung by four different singers (Morgera taking one song), none all that distinctive or attractive. The other half are instrumentals, although they are not staged much differently, with smokey cocktail bar piano and Morgera's deftly phrased, eloquent trumpet. I'd like to hear a more instrumental album, or a better singer. B+(*) [advance]

Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006, Roberts Music Group): You must know by now that I hate Flash websites, but Mullen's is annoying enough to spur me into reiterating the obvious. Mullen is a saxophonist. Don't know where he comes from or when, but he's spent time in Boston and New York, and he's one of the hundreds or maybe thousands who have studied with George Garzone. Claims he was inspired by his father's record collection, accumulated as a DJ in the '50s/'60s, with honking sax the standout trait. He means to update that, with synth beats, guitar (including Nile Rodgers on one track, Marc Ribot on three), raps, and a chorus of True Worship Ministries Singers (three tracks). I'm not sure that any of that works, but I got up in a real foul mood this morning, heard most of it under that haze, and need to move on. Two cuts where he kicks back and plays sax ballads are quite nice. Don't know about the one called "For Rashaan" -- there's a picture of Mullen playing soprano and tenor at the same time so most likely he is thinking of Kirk, but is the typo deliberate or just sloppy? AMG likens him to Kirk Whallum, but I suspect he has a more determined vision -- could even be an American Courtney Pine, a concept I'll have to put off thinking about. [B] [Oct. 1]

Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006 [2007], Roberts Music Group): I'm not sure that Mullen won't wind up smothered in smooth jazz jam -- his credits include keys and sequencing, drum programming, vocals, flute and trumpet, as well as his lead tenor sax and kiss-of-death soprano, which position him well for the slick side. Still, he opens with a slice of R&B honk called "Flip It," then introduces his title cut with a rap. When he reaches for a soul cover, he picks Stevie Wonder's "As," then turns it over to Nile Rodgers for a hardcore funk beat, and roasts the True Worship Ministries Singers with his tenor sax, lest they get too Godly on him. His originals have overreaching messages (e.g., his "Prayer for Our Times") and one called "Lost Souls" breaks into a chorus chant of "a love supreme." His other cover is a nice sax ballad of "Bewitched" -- a soft landing at the end. The synthesis strikes me as over his head, but for now at least his head's in the game. B+(**)

Alfredo Naranjo: Y El Guajeo (2006 [2007], Cacao Musica): One of five releases from this Venezuelan label, featuring fancy packages which fold out to reveal a lengthy spiral-bound booklet in English and Spanish and a poorly glued sleeve to hold the disc. Naranjo plays vibraphone, xylophone, and piano. He leads a large group supplemented by guests like Jimmy Bosch on trombone. Latin jazz, sound pretty average to me, with those tricky shifts and stops that throw us gringos pretty badly. Big beat, but the vocals get tedious. B-

Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls): Alto saxophonist, on his first album, but evidently he's played around Smalls for quite a while. Father is bassist Jamil Nasser (né George Joyner), who played with BB King and numerous beboppers from the 1950s forward. The father provides the context for Zaid working with such old timers as Bill Doggett and Panama Francis, although I have to wonder about: "As a young saxophonist, he often spent his days with Papa Jo Jones, getting lessons in jazz and life from Father Time himself." Very young, I figure -- Jones died in 1985, when Nasser was unlikely to be more than 17. In any case, Nasser's references are bebop, which he plays with a freshness and eloquence that was rare in its heyday. The quartet, with Sacha Perry on piano, Ari Roland on bass, and Phil Stewart on drums, is more conventional, setting a pace that keeps things interesting. [B+(***)] [advance]

Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls): An alto saxophonist who not risks sounding like Charlie Parker and winds up showing how it should be done. He taps Ellington for two tunes, wails through "Chinatown My Chinatown," plucks a barnburner from oldtime bebop pianist George Wallington, strings them together with a couple of originals, including one from pianist Sacha Perry. Not a tribute. More like 55th Street is back in business. A- [advance]

Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 [2007], Benyo Music): Jazz singer, with a dark, smoky voice, and deft feel for the beat. Bio says her career started in 1962 singing classical, then moved through blues and rock -- AMG gives two stars to a 1971 recording on Evolution called The Beginning -- before settling into the jazz lofts. Launched her own label in 1980, releasing an album every few years since -- I've counted 8, with 6 in print, but have only heard 2004's It's Only a Tune. This one has politics, and could use a lyric sheet -- "here living's hard if it doesn't come easy" and "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land of the brave and the free" are two lines I jotted down. Next time around I'll probably find more. [B+(***)]

Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 [2007], Benyo Music): A jazz singer-songwriter who's remained obscure for decades reinvents herself as the new Odetta, as straightforward as any basic blues singer: "tv news makes my blood boil/the mission was to grab the oil"; "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land of the brave and the free"; "a city dies before our eyes/the bursted levees, the broken lies." The line about dreaming is her stab at irony: it's no dream when "living's hard when it doesn't come easy." B+(***)

Josh Nelson: Let It Go (2007, Native Language): Young (28?) pianist, born in Long Beach, attended Berklee, now based in Los Angeles. Cites Bill Cunliffe and Alan Pasqua as mentors. Looks like his second album, after Anticipation (2004). Seems to me that the label specializes in pop-jazz -- I don't normally get their records -- but this is thoughtful, smartly composed and arranged postbop. (Nelson's lists Rhodes and Hammond C3 among his credits, but acoustic piano dominates.) Much of the credit goes to a first-rate band: Seamus Blake on tenor sax, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Derek Oleskiewicz on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Two cuts add a string quartet -- one also pitching singer Sara Gazarek. She's unnecessary here, but not unfortunate. (Evidently Nelson also runs a promo company, and she's a client, as well as a label-mate.) [B+(***)]

Josh Nelson: Let It Go (2007, Native Language): Pianist, works in some electric keyboards, but mostly stays acoustic when the Seamus Blake plays tenor sax, getting a little sharper contrast that way. The first-rate band also includes Anthony Wilson on guitar, Derek Oleskiewicz on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums. Serious talent, impressive work, leans toward the side of postbop I find more artful than interesting. B+(*)

Jovino Santos Neto: Alma do Nordeste (Soul of the Northeast) (2008, Adventure Music): Pianist, also plays melodica (2 cuts) and flute (1 cut). Born 1954, Rio de Janeiro, studied in Montreal, lives in US now. I picked this out of order after seeing him write about the Felipe Salles record, which he wasn't otherwise involved with. Compared to Salles, this seems to be the real Brazilian Nordeste, with its tumbling profusion of rhythm, guitar, accordion, and flutes. Neto ties it together with piano. I prefer Salles' record because the sax pulls it back into a recognizable jazz context. Three cuts with tenor sax here, three more with soprano, are barely recognizable. B+(**)

David "Fathead" Newman: Diamondhead (2007, High Note): Pretty good band here, with Peter Washington on bass, Yoron Israel on drums, Cedar Walton on piano, and Curtis Fuller smearing some noise on trombone. Fathead, however, sounds thin and wasted, and spends much too much time on flute. B-

Russ Nolan & the Kenny Werner Trio: With You in Mind (2007 [2008], Rhinoceruss Music): Saxophonist, originally from Chicago suburbs, in New York since 2002, another alumnus of the University of North Texas. (Wikipedia reports that UNT, north of Dallas in Denton, has the largest music school in the country, and was the first university to offer a Jazz Studies degree, back in 1947. Hype sheet refers to North Texas State University, which is what UNT was called before 1989. Don't have any timeline for Nolan before 2002, but he could have gone there before 1989.) Second album; the first, Two Colors, with pianist Sam Barsh, who moves over to producer here. Werner provides a pretty sophisticated postbop operating platform, setting up Nolan for some fancy runs. After four plays, I'm more impressed than enamored; hard pressed to find fault, anxious to move on. B+(**)

NYNDK: Nordic Disruption (2007 [2008], Jazzheads): Group name stands for: NY (New York: trombonist Chris Washburne), N (Norway: saxophonist Ole Mathisen and bassist Per Mathisen), DK (Denmark: pianist Soren Moller). Also on this record "special guest" drummer Scott Neumann. Second group album, the first with guests Tony Moreno on drums and Ray Vega on trumpet. Postbop, a little harder and more aggressive with the horns than usual -- trombone helps. B+(*)

Mark O'Leary: On the Shore (2003 [2007], Clean Feed): Irish guitarist, based in New York. Has a half-dozen albums since 2000 on Leo, mostly well regarded, some with interesting names (Tomasz Stanko, Matthew Shipp, Mat Maneri, Uri Caine, Cuong Vu, Tom Rainey), none that I've heard. This one looks to have been on the shelf for a while. It was recorded in California with percussionist Alex Cline and a couple of trumpets. Hard to get a handle on it: mostly atmospheric, but not so consistently so that you can be sure of his intent. One note says this was influenced by Arvo Part, but also by Edward Vesala. Don't know what to make of that either. [B+(*)]

Mark O'Leary: On the Shore (2007, Clean Feed): Avant guitarist, has a lot of work out lately, and I'm way behind the learning curve. This one was evidently influenced by Arvo Part, mostly atmospheric trending towards ethereal, sometimes with a couple of trumpets, mostly shading, occasionally to pick up the pace and thicken the mix -- indeed, it all comes together in a choice cut called "Point Mix." He remains a future project. B+(*)

Out to Lunch: Excuse Me While I Do the Boogaloo (2007, Accurate): Gratuitous AMG slam du jour: they label this group/record country. The hype sheet references Medeski Martin & Wood, Groove Collective, Club D'Elf, and others, summing up: "James Brown soul to dub influenced reggae, from jazz to house." I guess "acid jazz" doesn't buy you much these days. Actually, I find them a little soft and wobbly for any of those comparisons. The leader is Brooklyn saxophonist David Levy, who hails from Canada and passed through New England Conservatory. Levy's credit list here starts with bass clarinet and clarinet, which has something to do with the soft touch. Josiah Woodson plays trumpet and flute; Petr Cancura tenor/soprano sax and clarinet; Eric Lane keybs; two bassist alternate, and there are drums and electronics. Debut album, although AMG lists one from 2003 that probably doesn't belong here. B

The Paislies (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): New York group, six members: Samir Zarif (soprano and tenor sax), Jesse Lewis (guitar), Eliot Cardinaux (nord electro 2 and organ), Miro Sprague (piano), Perry Wortman (bass), Paul Wiltgen (drums). Of these, only Sprague rings a faint bell -- has a couple of albums, but I haven't heard them. Sprague's website describes the Paislies as a cooperative group. Don't see any song credits to indicate otherwise. I'm fond of collectivism in politics and business, but one thing I'm attracted to in jazz is a strong sense of individuality. That's often a problem with larger groups, especially without a strong leader, and I don't hear anyone standing out here. Postbop, soft tones, not a lot of beat, the dual keyboards a bit unusual. Young guys as far as I can tell. Zarif comes from Houston via New Orleans. Lewis is from Boston via New Orleans. Cardinaux has a MySpace page with nothing on it. Sprague has trio and quintet albums, but not much of a biography. Wortman grew up in Tulsa and gigged in OKC. Wiltgen comes from Luxembourg, has his own group, is into Baha'i. Some (or maybe all) of them intersected at Manhattan School of Music. Most have MySpace pages, which I mostly ignore because they're mostly useless, but musicians like them because they can forcefeed you music -- annoying when you're trying to listen to something else. Group has a Flash page: flashier than average, but also not much help. Some of these guys may turn out to be good, but it's pretty early to tell. B-

Mitch Paliga: Fall Night (2006 [2008], Origin): Originally from Montana, based in or near Chicago since 1990, teaches at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Plays soprano sax, leading a quintet with an interesting postbop mix: Jo Ann Daugherty (Fender Rhodes, accordion), John McLean (guitar), Patrick Williams (acoustic bass), Ryan Bennett (drums). Bright and lively, doesn't get caught up in overly fancy harmonics. B+(**)

Maceo Parker: Roots & Grooves (2007 [2008], Heads Up, 2CD): An alto saxophonist, Parker has played on dozens of great albums, but he's never put his name on one before. He joined James Brown in 1964, then moved on to George Clinton in 1975 and back to Brown in 1984. Both leaders spun off instrumental albums, first as the J.B.'s, then as the Horny Horns. Since 1989 Parker has recorded a dozen albums, mostly underachieving the modest goals announced in their titles: Roots Revisited, Mo' Roots, Life on Planet Groove, Funk Overload, etc. This looked like another, until I popped it in and it blasted off into "Hallelujah I Love Her So." First disc is titled "Tribute to Ray Charles," and works through "Busted," "Hit the Road Jack," a few more, climaxing with "What'd I Say." Parker sings a few -- he's more Cleanhead Vinson than Ray Charles, but that works for me. Parker doesn't have the direct connection that Fathead Newman has, but he started out when Charles was laying the foundation his whole career was built on. Second disc is called "Back to Funk": five originals and "Pass the Peas" from J.B.'s days. It's less obvious and every bit as exciting. The secret in both cases is the band. Directed by Michael Abene, the WDR Big Band Köln will play anything with anyone -- their purpose, after all, is to crank out radio shots with visiting dignitaries -- and they've never amounted to much, but they have a ball here. Maybe it's too easy: Charles ran a big band himself, and scaling Parker's grooves up to J.B.-size is as obvious as it is fun. Parker gloats in the dęjŕ vu. With Charles and Brown gone, he's just the guy to honor them. [Note: Don't know when this was recorded. Album appears to have been released in Europe in 2007, and reissued in US by Heads Up, which has been picking up quite a bit of WDR Big Band material.] A-

Kat Parra: Azucar de Amor (2008, Patois): Singer, from California, currently somewhere in the Bay Area. Does a mixed bag of Latin music, sambas and mambos, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian, charangas and danzóns, salsa, with a special interest in Sephardic whatever -- she sings in Ladino, as well as Spanish, Portuguese, French, and (not on her list, but I guess this is a given) English. Second album. It's easier to nitpick the English and/or the slow ones -- she does "Misty" as a bolero but it still sounds like a pretty ordinary "Misty" to me. Her "mystic Sephardic ballad" is appropriately dreamy, something called "Esta Montanya D'Enfrente." B

Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio: Standards (2007, Fuzzy Music): Back cover says: "It's high time this trio recorded an album of standards." Not sure how far back the trio goes -- I have a 2-CD set, Live at Rocco, from 1999 filed under Erskine's name, a pretty good showing as far as my attention span could ascertain. Where most standards albums rise and fall according to the contours of their sources, the interplay is so subtle and minimal here the songs just dissolve into the aether, occasionally emerging as recognizable wisps. B+(**)

The Michael Pedicin Quintet: Everything Starts Now . . . (2007 [2008], Jazz Hut): A/k/a Michael Pedicin Jr. Born 1945, plays tenor sax. Father was a musician, but he don't have any details, other than Jr. saying that father introduced him to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, etc. Most likely the father recorded as Mike Pedicin (b. 1917, Philadelphia, band leader, played alto sax): Bear Family has a 1955-57 collection by Mike Pedicin Quintet called Jive Medicin -- AMG likens it to Bill Haley. Jr. has several albums out since 1980. Lives in NJ now, but this one was recorded in Philadelphia, with Johnnie Valentino on guitar, Mick Rossi on piano, Chris Colangelo on bass, Michael Sarin on drums: a strong group that carries the album -- Valentino and Rossi have albums I've recommended in the past -- setting up the saxophonist. [B+(***)]

Sacha Perry: The Third Time Around (2007 [2008], Smalls): Pianist, from Brooklyn, b. 1970, third album as a leader, plus side credits with other "Smalls scene" artists, especially Chris Byars and Ari Roland. Standard bop piano trio, with Roland on bass, Phil Stewart on drums. Nicely done, but doesn't leave me with a lot to say. B+(**)

The Puppini Sisters: The Rise & Fall of Ruby Woo (2008, Verve): Vocal group, modelled on the Andrews Sisters, led by Marcella, last name Puppini. Her "sisters" are likely ringers, one named Kate Mullins, the other Stephanie O'Brien. Their previous album, Betcha Bottom Dollar, hewed more closely to the concept. Here they try to move on, you know, advance artistically. Puppini writes three songs, Mullins one. "Jilted" would be more than adequate filler if their covers held up better, but they range from "Old Cape Cod" to "Walk Like an Egyptian," stumbling badly on "Spooky" and "Could It Be Magic" -- not for Barry Manilow, not here either. B

Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana: Telegrafía Sin Hilo (2005 [2007], Cacao Musica): Cuban, b. 1948, plays timbale, best known for his work in Los Van Van, probably ranks as one of the major percussionists in Cuban music from 1970. This was recorded in Caracas. It looks like the majority of musicians were Cuban, including numerous percussionists on bata drums, bongo, congas, and many others. Most cuts have vocals -- various singers, no complaints on my part. Fine example of contemporary Cuban pop with some jazz cred. B+(**)

Sun Ra: The Night of the Purple Moon (1964-70 [2008], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): Obscure even by Sun Ra standards, a quartet session from 1970, given a catalog number for a 1972 ABC-Impulse! release but appeared only on Ra's Saturn label, now augmented by Wurlitzer and Celeste solos from 1964. Ra plays various electric keyboards, including one Ra calls a roksichord (RMI's Rocksichord). Two horns -- Danny Davis on alto sax, alto clarinet, and flute; John Gilmore on tenor sax -- but both players spend most of their time rotating on percussion, offsetting the goofball keyboards. The fourth is Stafford James on electric bass. The horns go straight for the jugular -- wish there was more of them, to put some meat on the minimalism. But the keyb vibe is pretty unique. B+(***)

Sun Ra: Some Blues but Not the Kind That's Blue (1973-77 [2007], Atavistic): A 6-track LP recorded in 1977, released on Saturn in 1978, plus an extra "Untitled" cut from the same session, plus two 1973 takes of "I'll Get By" done as trios (one with John Gilmore on tenor sax, the other with Akh Tal Ebah on flugelhorn). The 1977 sessions were cut with 10 musicians -- John Corbett describes this as a small group, but it's not much below Arkestra weight. Mostly covers, such as "My Favorite Things" and "Black Magic." I don't know Sun Ra well enough to have a good sense of how his discography fits together -- that may seem overly modest given that I have 30 of his albums in my ratings database -- so my rule of thumb is to lay back and see how pleasantly surprised I become. By that standard, this one fares pretty well. The familiar songs go off in curious directions. The horns cut grease, but this isn't really that much of a horn album. That's mostly because the tunes keep returning to the piano (or organ on the 1973 tracks), and Ra's mix of stride, bebop, and something from the outer reaches of the galaxy is pretty amazing. A-

Deepak Ram: Steps (2008, Golden Horn): Born in South Africa; plays bansuri, a long Indian flute, which he studied under Pandip Hariprasad Chaurasia, a name I recognize despite my general ignorance of Indian classical music. Ram has half a dozen albums since 1999, presumably more conventionally Indian and/or inflected by his South African experience -- e.g., he shows up on The Rough Guide to South African Jazz. This, however, is a straight jazz album, a quartet with Ram's deeper, less tinny flute set off against Vic Juris's guitar, with Tony Marino on bass, Jamey Haddad on drums/percussion. Two originals don't stand out against Davis and Coltrane covers, "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine." Not without charm, but if anything, too straight. B

Enrico Rava/Stefano Bollani: The Third Man (2006 [2008], ECM): It's hard to make duos work, harder still when the instruments meet like oil and water, although even for trumpet and piano I can think of an exception -- Warren Vaché and Bill Charlap's 2gether (2000, Nagel-Heyer), but in that case both artists go more than half way to meet the other. They are great listeners. Rava and Bollani are pretty good talkers. Despite their mutual admiration, their oratory sails right past each other, giving us interleaved halves of two solo albums. B

Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar (2007, Domino): Album cover claims "(recorded in africa)" in small bold print against an outline of the continent. The title is evidently an archaic spelling of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, where Reid picked up trumpet (Roger Ongolo), guitar (Jimi Mbaye), bass (Dembel Diop), kora (Isa Kouyate, also spelled Koyate, while kora is also spelled korah), and percussion (Khadim Badji), studio pros with Youssou N'Dour and Super Diamono and others on their resumes. Kouyate also provides a vocal on the first song, called "Welcome," which is the only thing here that is unmistakably Senegalese. The rest are seductive little groove pieces. While the Africans go with the flow and flesh them out admirably, the real interest is in the keyboards (Boris Netsvetaev) and electronics (Kieran Hebden, who also does business as Four Tet), light and fleeting details in a thick jungle tableau. Reid's a drummer with a Zelig-like list of credits -- Martha Reeves' "Dancing in the Streets," John Coltrane, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, Miles Davis -- despite spending most of his life in obscurity as an exile, now snug in Switzerland. He got some notice in 2006 for The Exchange Session, two volumes of laptop-drums improvs with Hebden, and that paid for his ticket to Africa. Not the first time he's been back, but this time he brought something extra to the party. A-

Júlio Resende: Da Alma (2007, Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, don't know much about him other than that he studied in France. Leads a quartet here with either Alexandra Grimal or Zé Pedro Coehlo on tenor sax, Joăo Custódio on bass, and either Joăo Lobo or Joăo Rijo on drums. I'm not familiar with any of these names, and have very little to go on, other than the music, which is attractive postbop with a free edge. Label website claims: "The future of jazz in Portugal will come from here." I'm not convinced they're wrong. [B+(**)]

Júlio Resende: Da Alma (2007, Clean Feed): I guess you can call this Portuguese soul jazz, dreamy flights of fancy tethered to Resende's piano. Not that it all trends toward evanescence. Some cuts are tied down to rhythmic piano figures, and they're very much awake. B+(***)

Matana Roberts Quartet: The Chicago Project (2007 [2008], Central Control): Saxophonist (alto, I think), originally from Chicago, AACM member, now based in New York, but returned to Chicago to pick up this band, including Fred Anderson (tenor sax), Jeff Parker (guitar), Josh Abrams (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums). She's part of a group called Sticks and Stones with Abrams and drummer Chad Taylor, and also seems to be involved with Burnt Sugar. Got this as an advance last fall. Didn't come with much info, and I never got a final copy, so it's just been sitting on the shelf, although I did notice it in a couple of year-end lists. Two plays and I don't have a very clear picture of what's going on here: free riffing, alternately rhythmic and disjoint, patches of interesting guitar, but mostly overwhelmed by the horns. [B] [advance]

Matana Roberts Quartet: The Chicago Project (2007 [2008], Central Control): Alto saxophonist, Chicago native, AACM member (young, I think), lives in New York. Got a strong pick up band when she returned to Chicago for this session, including Fred Anderson on tenor sax and Jeff Parker on guitar, and got production help from Vijay Iyer. Doesn't come together much, although there are interesting patches, especially the guitar. B [advance]

Scott Robinson: Plays the Compositions of Thad Jones: Forever Lasting (1992-2005 [2008], Arbors): Not the best of concepts. Robinson's specialty is in antique reed instruments, like C-Melody sax, bass saxophone, and contrabass sarrusophone, to which he adds various flutes and clarinet and a couple of brass instruments -- echo cornet, french horn, flugelhorn. He trends toward trad jazz and swing, whereas Thad Jones was postbop before bop even ran its course. Brother Hank Jones plays piano on one cut, but Richard Wyands handles most of the others, and Mike Le Donne chimes in on Hammond B-3 on five -- indeed, the album's dominant sound motif is bass sax over organ. Listed as "Great American Composers Series, Vol. 3." Vol.1 was Louis Armstrong (Jazz Ambassador), a better fit. Don't recall seeing a Vol. 2. B

Ari Roland: And So I Lived in Old New York . . . (2007, Smalls): Bassist. Can't find any bio that goes any deeper than: "Bassist Ari Roland grew up inside the New York underground bop scene." That amounts to about ten years at Smalls, starting with his first appearance on Impulse's Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls. This is his second album as a leader. Other credits include Chris Byars, Frank Hewitt, Zaid Nasser, Sacha Perry, and Nellie McKay -- the only non-Smalls artist. This is a quartet with Byars (tenor/alto sax), Perry (piano), and Phil Stewart (drums). The idea of an "underground bop scene" is worth dwelling on for a bit. Bebop has been jazz orthodoxy ever since Charlie Parker routed the dancehalls and juke joints and made heroin king. Today, minus the scag, it's respectable enough for Lincoln Center. But Parker also started an undergrounding trend that led to discovery of numerous new things far beyond his revelations -- the 1960s avant-garde and all that's flowed out of it, about as uncommercial as music can get. So "bop underground" strikes me as an oxymoron. Smalls label mogul Luke Kaven has tried to explain this to me: in technical terms way over my head, but I know that it is possible to make new music out of old forms -- for example, there are still people making brilliant new contributions to trad jazz -- and I can hear a freshness in the best of these records despite knowing that they're breaking no bounds. Underground also seems to be a self-fulfilling commercial prophecy for Kaven, but that strikes me as contingent. Whereas many avant-garde artists can never break out of their narrow commercial niche, the Smalls records should be much more broadly accessible. This is one of the better ones, in large part due to Byars, but I'm also partial to the fat bass mix that's the leader's prerogative. Still need to go back and compare it against Byars' own Photos in Black, White and Gray -- slated for the next JCG, but still unwritten, even though it's one of my favorites this year. [A-] [advance]

Ari Roland: And So I Lived in Old New York . . . (2007, Smalls): A matching bookend to Chris Byars' Photos in Black, White and Gray, as it should be, given that the quartets are the same (except for the drummers, Andy Watson instead of Phil Stewart) and the two writers have long worked in the same milieu. More bass solos here. A- [advance]

Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun Shower (2007, Stomp Off): Singer, from Ohio, specializes in pop songs from the 1920s/1930s. Has three previous albums on Stomp Off, each with 20+ songs, and one normal-sized album on Azica. She's been appearing lately with the Harry James ghost band, as well as Kevin Dorn's Traditional Jazz Collective and Mike Hashim -- both Dorn and Hashim appear here. One of the Stomp Offs was a tribute to Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw. She picks more songs from that era here, few I recognize -- one from Etting, one from Clarence Williams, one rescued from Tiny Tim. The band is superb, with old-timey banjo and tuba, cornet, and deftly deployed fiddle. Long at 76:35, but only two of the 23 songs top 4 minutes. Two are instrumentals, but they slip by rather than stand out. Rosene gets two credits for whistling, and they do stand out. [B+(***)]

Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun Shower (2007, Stomp Off): A specialist in pre-WWII pop songs, with tributes to Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw in her catalog, Rosene rescues "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" from Tiny Tim, and adds 22 more songs only specialists are likely to recognize. The musicians, including Jon-Erik Kellso on cornet and trumpet and Mike Hashim on soprano and alto sax dote on this stuff, and Rosene can brighten any sad day. B+(**)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (2007 [2008], Blue Note): Cuban pianist, has a long string of records since 1990, and should by now be considered one of the world's major jazz pianists. Rather straight jazz quintet, with Yosvany Terry (various saxophones), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Matt Brewer (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Most of the kinks come from the pianist himself, whose deftness at shifting rhythms, at breaking the flow with abrupt stops and starts, is unique. Terry continues to impress. Not as immediately appealing as his last group album, Paseo, but part of that is added complexity. Still working on it. [B+(***)]

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (2007 [2008], Blue Note): It seems to me that the Cuban pianist has moved beyond the rhythmic conventions of Afro-Cuban jazz into a whole new realm of personal idiosyncrasy. His quintet has the traditional bebop/hard bop lineup, with Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Yosvany Terry on various saxophones, Matt Brewer on bass, and Marcus Gilmore on drums, but none of the traditional forms, veering between progressive postbop and points I don't know how to characterize. Choice cut: "Hip Side" (one of three Terry pieces). B+(**)

Greg Ruggiero: Balance (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist: credits here read: electric/acoustic/classical guitars & vocalisms. Not sure what the latter are. Born 1977, Albuquerque. Based in Brooklyn since 2004. First album. Quintet, with Rob Wilkerson (alto sax), Frank LoCrasto (piano, keyboards), Matt Brewer (bass), Tommy Crane (drums/percussion). They form a small circle, playing in each other's bands -- Wilkerson had a nice album on FSNT a couple years ago. This one has a sort of pastoral-industrial feel -- factory rhythms slowed down, rocking gently back and forth, spread out with soft, lulling tones; pleasantly engaging background music, nonetheless interesting when you notice it. B+(**)

Sabertooth: Dr. Midnight (2007, Delmark): A quartet consisting of two saxophonists, Cameron Pfiffner and Pat Mallinger, with Pete Benson on organ and Ted Sirota on drums. Group formed in 1990 and has long held an after hours gig at Chicago's Green Mill Lounge. A previous self-released Live at the Green Mill album came out in 2001. The new one suggests they haven't gone anywhere. The two saxophonists can cut it, but Pfiffner likes to relax with his piccolo, Matlinger prefers a Native American flute, neither strong suits. Mostly originals by the saxophonists, but the best thing here is by "traditional," mostly because Sirota gets to shake a Latin beat. Strikes me as spotty, a problem with gigs: live you recall the good spots, on record you dread the rest. B-

Felipe Salles: South American Suite (2006 [2007], Curare): Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil; now based in New York, since 1995. Plays reeds and flutes: 7 cuts break down to 5 tenor sax, 4 soprano sax, 3 flute(s), 3 alto flute, 2 bass clarinet, 1 clarinet, 1 baritone sax. Group includes Jacam Monricks on flute and alto sax, Joel Yennior on trombone, Nando Michelin on piano; alto bass, drums, percussion. Not sure how far beyond Brazil the South American theme strays: references include samba, choro, frevo, afoxé, xote -- all Brazilian, mostly nordeste. Rhythms twist around quite a bit, providing the suite-like movement; the flute(s) dance around, but the sax provides a focal point. Salles has two previous albums on Fresh Sound New Talent -- haven't heard them. B+(***)

Jesús Santandreu: Out of the Cage (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, from Valencia in Spain. First album, a quartet with Abe Rábade (piano), Paco Charlín (bass), and Vicente Espí (drums). I've run across Santandreu a couple of times before: on Espí's Tras Coltrane, where he plays a lot of you-know-who, and on Zé Eduardo's Bad Guys, teamed with Jack Walrath's trumpet. Liner notes in Spanish: in addition to Coltrane, he cites Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi, and Steve Grosman [sic] -- big toned, straight ahead players with some hop on the fastball. Santandreu plays like them, and in a pinch will do. Rádabe plays a similarly fat but less nuanced piano. Good drummer. B+(*)

Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2007, Cacao Musica): Some fancy packaging here, a fold-out wallet with the disc slipped into a slot on the right panel, and a spiral bound booklet on the left. A lot of words, too, even with half or more in Spanish. The label is Venezuelan, flush perhaps with petrodollars? The group is Venezuelan too, described initially as Venezuelan Rock, then as Pop Autóctono, or native pop. In any case, it isn't jazz. And it doesn't have enough force to overcome the language barrier, although the booklet may give them a chance to recover. I have four more records pending with the same packaging. No need to dig deeper right now. [B]

Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2006 [2007], Cacao Musica): Rock en espańol from Venezuela, what they call pop autóctono. In the long run, I figure rock en espańol will be as great and as awful as rock in english, but not speaking the language it's hard to get the fine points. This comes off as middlebrow, vaguely folkish, not distinctive nor outrageous enough to crack the ice, but it does get more comfortably listenable over time. B

Diane Schuur: Some Other Time (2008, Concord): Singer. Has about 20 albums since 1985, but this is the first I've heard. Arguably she's the most famous jazz singer I'd never heard before -- she's had a couple of Grammys and 12 albums on Billboard's Top Ten Jazz Albums lists, but popularity tends to be suspect in this niche and Penguin Guide doesn't acknowledge her at all. Standards, well worn ones at that, like "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Blue Skies," "Taking a Chance on Love," "My Favorite Things." One cut is rather strangely pulled from a 1964 archive, at which point she would have been 11, and that segues into an apparently new "Danny Boy." Small group with piano (Schuur on two cuts, Randy Porter elsewhere), guitar (Dean Balmer), bass and drums. She's an articulate singer with a finely honed neutral voice, assured. Given surefire songs and sensible, swinging even, arrangements, she makes a strong impression. B+(**)

Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Soné Ka-La (2007, Emarcy): Tenor saxophonist, from Guadeloupe, b. 1962; father French-Jewish; grew up partly in Switzerland as well as Guadeloupe. I've run across him several times before, and he's often impressed me with strong tenor sax lines, but he's fairly mild here, even playing a bit of soprano, flute, and guitar. The album mostly rides along on the gwoka drums, and various vocalists drop in for a world pop fusion thing. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Christian Scott: Anthem (2007, Concord): New Orleans trumpet player. Young -- don't have a birthdate, but website claims he's 22, Wikipedia says he graduated from Berklee in 2004, something doesn't add up. Nephew of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Second album. First one came out last year in a cluster with pianist Taylor Eigsti and singer Erin Boheme which tempted me to label them the Mod Squad. Scott had the most talent then, and he has more now, but first pass through I don't care for this record at all. Seems to me like he's invented the jazz analogue to heavy metal. Aside for "Like That" near the end, the music here is all heavy sludge: loud drums, immobile bass, keyb gumbo. The only saving grace is that it provides deadened surfaces to scratch with his trumpet or cornet or soprano trombone or flugelhorn. Part of this may be explained by his Katrina theme, which may have brought sludge and waste and decay to mind. Still, I should hold this back for another play. "Like That" lightens up and is rather pleasant. And the closing, "post diluvial" version of the title track, features a biting tirade from Brother J of X-Clan. He's reaching, and my initial distaste may not be the final word. [B-]

Vince Seneri: The Prince's Groove (2007 [2008], Prince V): Hammond B3 Organ jockey, from New Jersey. Fifth album; second I've heard. Seems like an antiquated niche, but he kicks up the classic groove, and makes exceptional use of his guests: he gets Houston Person to play the slow one, restricts Dave Valentin's flute to two fast Latin numbers, and keeps Randy Brecker's skunk funk from getting stale. [B+(***)] [Mar. 1]

Vince Seneri: The Prince's Groove (2007 [2008], Prince V): Seneri not only plays the Hammond B3 Organ, he sells them through a company called Hammond Organ World. He puts on a good demo, too, with first rate guest stars -- Dave Valentin takes the fast latin pieces on flute, Randy Brecker splatters his trumpet on the funky ones. The only time the groove lets up is the obligatory sax ballad, which Houston Person aces. B+(***)

Ken Serio: Live . . . in the Moment (2006 [2008], Tripping Tree Music, 2CD): Drummer, evidently fusion-oriented. Fifth self-released album going back to 1996. Don't know any bio -- can't find the hype sheet, Flash website, AMG only lists this album, but CD Baby is better informed. Leads a group with two guitarists (Vic Juris, Pete McCann) and electric bass (Mark Egan). Not a lot here, mostly elemental riff pieces with minor improv, but it's quite listenable. Don't know who does what, but McCann has previously struck me as a rising talent. B+(*)

Avery Sharpe: Legends & Mentors: The Music of McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp and Yusef Lateef (2007 [2008], JKNM): Three sections, each starting with a Sharpe original, followed by two pieces written by the subject. Sharpe is a bassist, born 1955, has 6-8 albums under his own name, a substantial list of credits, starting with Shepp's Attica Blues Big Band, 25 years with Tyner, and a stretch with Lateef in the early 1990s that includes one called Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Archie Shepp -- hard to find on Lateef's YAL label, but one of the great sax jousts of all time. The band here features John Blake on violin, Joe Ford on reeds and flute (Lateef, you know), Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, Winard Harper on drums. Gumbs is a pretty good Tyner substitute, and the first section swings hard. Shepp is a tougher nut to crack, but Lateef's spaciness opens things up again. The violin is a nice touch. Usually don't expect much from tributes, but this one is growing on me. [B+(**)]

The Marty Sheller Ensemble: Why Deny (2007 [2008], PVR): Born 1940, Newark, NJ, Sheller broke in on trumpet, landed a summer gig in the Catskills, and followed Hugo Dickens back to Harlem and into Latin jazz, soon hooking up with Mongo Santamaria. He spent the next 40+ years mostly in the background, working as an arranger for Santamaria, Willie Colón, Tito Puente, Larry Harlow, Ruben Blades. First album under his own name. Sheller doesn't play, but he put together a set of hot, brassy arrangements, and a hot, brassy band big enough to play them. Dedicated the album to Santamaria, who generally had a lighter touch. B+(*)

Matthew Shipp: Piano Vortex (2007, Thirsty Ear): I got this very late, well after the year-end lists were compiled. Not sure why. I get everything else from Thirsty Ear, and asked for and was promised this several times before it finally came through. I've written about Shipp at great length here and here, and two records back he scored a Pick Hit with his jazztronica triumph, Harmony and Abyss. This one turned out to be tough to get into. It's an old fashioned piano trio, with Joe Morris on bass and Whit Dickey on drums. It seemed to just amble quietly then finally detonate about six cuts in. Finally I kicked the volume up a notch, and with Gary Giddins' Jazz Times column as a guide, started paying attention. The ambling quiet title cut does indeed draw you into a vortex. The second and fourth pieces are choppy rhythm things a bit more deliberate than the sixth one ("Quivering With Speed") I've been noticing all along. The odd numbered pieces feature lines that go places you don expect. Morris, who started out as a guitarist, is turning into a sharp bassist, especially with the bow. Giddins writes about others writing about how this is more accessible than other Shipp records. I don't think so. But at least it pays back the attention it demands. A-

James Silberstein: Expresslane (2008, CAP): Guitarist. Not much bio info, just that he's been "a working pro on the New York scene for the past 25 years." Second album. AMG doesn't list any more credits. He has a nice loping rhythm and clean tone, but doesn't run off much, mostly because he has a lot of help here. Most important is bassist Harvey S (né Swartz), who wrote some, arranged more, and keeps the rhythm running, often with tricks he picked up mastering Latin jazz. Horns come and go: Eric Alexander's tenor sax, Jim Rotondi's trumpet and flugelhorn, Steve Davis' trombone, Anne Drummond's flute. Kate McGarry scats on one of the two flute tunes, which barely survives on the strength of S's bassline. Website points out that this hit #13 on the radio charts in its first week. This kind of mix up is typical of a radio focus -- something for everyone -- but doesn't help over the course of an album. [PS: Got ahead of myself here: last piece is a 2:04 solo, a good example of his guitar.] B+(*)

Horace Silver: Live at Newport '58 (1958 [2007], Blue Note): I'm glad that Blue Note keeps digging old concert tapes up: the 1956 Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane set was a real find; the 1964 Charles Mingus/Eric Dolphy didn't really deliver the historical import or musical interest attributed to it -- quite a bit of later material from the same group has been out for a long time -- but was good to have nonetheless. This one is slighter than the others in terms of historical interest, but delightful in its own minor ways. Silver's group included Louis Smith on trumpet, a little recorded interlude between Donald Byrd and Blue Mitchell. The rest are: Junior Cook on tenor sax, Gene Taylor on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, and Silver, of course, on piano. Only four cuts, with the marvelous "Seńor Blues" the shortest at 8:42 (not much longer than the earlier studio version) and "Tippin'" topping out at 13:10 (more than double the studio version). The extra space is put to good use by the horns and piano, but this doesn't add much for anyone familiar with Silver. The earlier Six Pieces of Silver, with Byrd and Hank Mobley, has 3 of 4 songs; the later Doin' the Thing is an even better sample of Silver live. I can't recommend this over either, but it doesn't miss by much, and it would be churlish to scare anyone away from this "Seńor Blues," some marvelous piano, and the chance to hear Smith. A-

Alex Sipiagin: Out of the Circle (2008, Sunnyside): Trumpeter, b. 1967 Yaroslavl, Russia; won a competition in Rostov in 1990, then moved to New York in 1991. Eighth album, first I've heard (6 others are on Criss Cross, an important Dutch mainstream label that has never answered my inquiries). Fancy postbop, with a large cast of slick players -- Donny McCaslin (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Adam Rogers (guitars), Henry Hey (keyboards), Gil Goldstein (accordion), Scott Colley (bass), Antonio Sanchez (drums), Daniel Sadownick (percussion) -- a sort of creamy tone I've never cared for, a lot of rhythmic flex. Two songs have vocals by wife Monday Michiru, the first over a perky Latin groove, the other a torchy ballad. She's a good singer. He's taken a tack that I'm not very inclined to follow and made it work well enough I can't much complain. B+(*)

Slow Poke: At Home (1998 [2007], Palmetto): This is a 1998 album with Michael Blake (sax, keyb), David Tronzo (slide and baritone guitar), Tony Scherr (electric and acoustic bass, guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and percussion). The original release label was Baby Tank. This release is remixed with two additional cuts. The press release describes this as Palmetto's "first digital only release." It's not clear what that means. Palmetto's website offers something for $10.99 and an MP3 version for $6.99, but it's not in Palmetto's normal distribution. My copy is a promo in a jewel box with one-sheet, one-sided inserts. Anyhow, we'll pretend this is a real release. The interesting point would be Tronzo's slide guitar, which manages to stay well outside any jazz guitar idiom I can think of -- sometimes even sounds Hawaiian. [B+(**)]

Slow Poke: At Home (1998 [2007], Palmetto): Recorded by Lounge Lizards/Sex Mob bassist Tony Scherr at home in Brooklyn, laid back blues for sophisticates with no reason to be blue. Slide guitarist Dave Tronzo stretches out melodies by Duke Ellington and Neil Young, and saxophonist Michael Blake sails effortlessly along. A- [advance]

Tyshawn Sorey: What/Not (2007, Firehouse 12, 2CD): As far as I've been able to tell, one of the best young drummers to appear recently. Plays a little piano too, but so does Corey Smythe -- not sure what the breakdown is, but probably favors the specialist. In any case, this is a composer's record: the drums play minor, but sometimes startling, roles, with either piano or Ben Gerstein's trombone taking the leads. The long (42:50) "Permutations for Solo Piano" dominates the first disc. I figure it for sub-minimalism, mostly slow two-note patterns with a lot of resonance. Once you get acclimated, it doesn't much matter how long it goes on -- could be hours, but 42:50 is long enough to make the point. I can go either way on the piece. The trombone leads are more immediately appealing, especially the latter third of the 22:52 "Sacred and Profane." Most of the pieces are abstracts, sound dabbling with a limited palette. Many of them make sense only if you're playing close attention -- which among other things means noticing bassist Thomas Morgan. The record got a lot of positive notice when it came out, including a number two spot on Francis Davis's year-end list. When I asked for a copy, I was pointedly turned down, and I'm still rather pissed about that. Admittedly, it's the sort of record that I rarely find much more than interesting. After two plays I could go up or down on it, making credible arguments either way. But the second play revealed more, and there's so many diversely interesting stretches that it could conceivably cohere into a tour de force. A- [Rhapsody]

Soul Summit: Live at the Berks Jazz Fest! (2007 [2008], Shanachie): I filed this under producer-keyboardist Jason Miles, then backed off a bit and listed it as Soul Summit -- the only name on the spine, although the cover is more verbose (lines separated by slash): "Jason Miles Presents/Soul Summit/Bob Babbitt, Karl Denson, Richard Elliot, Steve Ferrone,/Mike Mattison, Maysa, Jason Miles, Susan Tedeschi, Reggie Young/Live at the/Berks Jazz Fest!" The name list leaves out a couple of trumpets (Barry Danielian, Tony Kadlek), guitarist Sherrod Barnes, saxophonist David Mann, backup vocalist Emily Bindinger. The idea is to knock off a set of old-fashioned soul, starting with a bang with "Shotgun" and ending on the one with a James Brown medley -- both with smoking tenor sax solos by Elliot. (Never had any reason to take him seriously before. Looks like he worked for Motown and Tower of Power before sliding into smooth jazz.) Denson, on the other hand, takes 3 of 4 solos on flute, but remains palpably funky. Most cuts have vocals -- Maysa can easily outsing Tedeschi, but the latter lays credible claim to "Son of a Preacherman." B+(**)

Speak in Tones: Subaro (2003-04 [2005], Alpha Pocket, 2CD): Nominally a collaboration between saxophonist Mike Ellis and percussionist Daniel Moreno, this employs 16 musicians and stretches out to 155 minutes. I take it there's an Afro-Brazil focus, but the sessions were recorded in New York with a group that included Malians Lansine Kouyate and Cheick Tidiane Seck, some notable jazz names (Antoine Roney, Jerry Gonzalez, Graham Haynes, Jean-Paul Bourelly, Adam Rudolph), and scattered others. The long groove pieces are seductive, and it helps that the horns have some sharp edges. B+(**)

The Gust Spenos Quartet: Swing Theory (2007 [2008], Swing Theory): By day Spenos is a neurologist in Indianapolis; by night he plays old-fashioned tenor sax. He has some clever math to explain swing. More importantly, he has a rhythm section that make it work -- Marvin Chandler on piano, Frank Smith on bass, Kenny Phelps on drums. He also taps some guests here: Eric Schneider, who claims four years experience with Earl Hines and two with Count Basie, adds alto sax and clarinet; Everett Greene sings two songs; and Wycliffe Gordon plays trombone and sings one more. The vocals probably limit how high I can go on this, but I love the basic sound enough to keep listening. [B+(***)]

Andrew Sterman: The Path to Peace: Music Inspired by the Inner Journey of Mahatma Gandhi (2007 [2008], Orange Mountain Music): Plays tenor sax and bass flute here, other reed instruments in a career that goes back to include a couple of late-1970s Philip Glass works: Music in Twelve Parts and Einstein on the Beach. Like the latter, this record was composed for a stage presentation, in this case choreographed and directed by Sridhar Shanmugam. The eight pieces layer the clear, elegant sax neatly on top of piano, violin, guitar, bass, and percussion. Late on ("Satyagraha") there is an emotionally dense section, but the rule of the day is easy flowing grace -- that it avoids monotony and excessive sweetness is notable given the general drift. The instrumentals are broken up with three short "Chant" section, but they don't amount to much. B+(*)

Loren Stillman: Blind Date (2006 [2007], Pirouet): Alto saxophonist, b. 1980 in England, studied with Dave Liebman and Lee Konitz. Has 8 records since 1998, mostly since 2003. Quartet with Gary Versace on piano, Drew Gress on bass, Joey Baron on drums. Stillman has a scrawny, delicate sound, and most of this plays like chamber music. I suspect there's more to it, but don't feel much motivation to dig it out. B

John Surman: The Spaces in Between (2006 [2007], ECM): Started recording for ECM in 1979, which by now makes up the bulk of his career. The more I listen to his pre-ECM stuff, the more I wonder about why he wound up dedicating himself to intricate, composerly postbop chamber music when he seemed early on to have both fusion and avant-garde by the balls. With a full string quartet, known as Trans4mation, plus bass (Chris Lawrence) as the sole accompaniment to his bass clarinet, baritone and soprano sax, this seems more chamberish than ever. But all the strings do is flesh out the reeds, which intrigue and never lose interest. [B+(**)]

John Surman: The Spaces in Between (2006 [2007], ECM): Basically a sax with strings record, the strings coming from a classical string quartet d/b/a Trans4mation plus Chris Lawrence on double bass. Surman plays baritone sax, soprano sax, and bass clarinet, so the sound shifts away from the norm. But he also lets the strings go on their own at length, making for a cerebral chamber music, but the tone gets monotonous -- never had much taste for such things. The baritone works because it provides the most contrast. B+(*)

Tom Tallitsch: Medicine Man (2007 [2008], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Cleveland, now based near Philadelphia, or maybe Princeton -- teaches at Mercer County Community College, which should be in Trenton. Second album, a quintet, with vibes (Tony Micelli), guitar (Victor Baker), bass and drums. Baker composed 3 of 8 songs; Tallitsch the rest. The band generates a lot of forward momentum, which serves the saxophonist well. Mainstream sax, straightforward, solid. B+(*)

The Thing With Ken Vandermark: Immediate Sound (2007, Smalltown Superjazz): The Thing is a Norwegian group, led by (mostly baritone) saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, with Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums -- all names that will be familiar to anyone following Vandermark around. Vandermark started playing with Gustafsson back when the latter was in the Aaly Quartet, and they've collided a dozen or more times since then. Gustafsson is an inveterately noisy player. for the most part, I find him a difficult taste, but I've liked it when the Thing takes on pieces of grunge rock, where there is some structure to wrap the noise around. This isn't that. It's a four-part improv thing, which comes together neatly with rotating baritone lines near the end, but makes a bloody mess along the way. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Third World Love: New Blues (2007 [2008], Anzic): Fourth album by this group, consisting of three Israelis based in New York, plus native drummer Daniel Freedman. I've been filing the records under trumpeter Avishai Cohen (Anat's brother, not the same-named bassist). The others are pianist Yonatan Avishai and bassist Omer Avital. All four players write, and the closer is by someone named Ellington -- Avital, who has a substantial body of work on his own, has the most, but Avishai's one piece is particularly nice. Slight Middle East flavor -- nothing too specific, nor generically world. Subtle enough it gained on the second play, and might benefit from more exposure. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

3 Cohens: Braid (2006 [2007], Anzic): Another Flash website, but this one at least has an HTML version (a tip of the hat to Dynamod Web Portals; I don't recommend non-free software or anything involving Flash, but at least they produce usable websites). The 3 Cohens are siblings Yuval (soprano sax), Anat (tenor sax, one cut on clarinet), and Avishai (trumpet), playing in front of Aaron Goldberg (piano), Omer Avital (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). All three provide originals (3 for Yuval, 2 Anat, 4 Avishai), plus there is a cover of "It Could Happen to You." The horns tend to wrap around each other, with the higher soprano sax/trumpet pair dominant -- the reference to braiding has some merit. The rhythm section is relatively anonymous, although the few occasions where they get an exotic rhythm to work with help a lot. B+(*) [advance]

Francesco Tristano: Not for Piano (2005 [2008], Sunnyside): Well, of course it's piano, just a little loud, with sharp chords and rolling percussion. Some cuts even have two pianos (Rami Khalifé on the other). Tristano was born 1981 in Luxemburg, classically trained at Juilliard, and is now based in Barcelona. Website gives his name as Francesco Tristano Schlimé. This looks to be his first jazz record, after a handful of classical things, mostly J.S. Bach and Luciano Berio. Not much in the way of improv, but makes a strong impression. B+(**)

Tomas Ulrich/Elliott Sharp/Carlos Zingaro/Ken Filiano: T.E.C.K. String Quartet (2007, Clean Feed): Group name comes from first initials. Ulrich, a cellist, comes first because he wrote all the pieces. Not your usual string quartet: Zingaro is the only violin; no viola; Filiano plays bass, and Sharp plays some kind of guitar ("well, two: one with steel strings, and the othera heavy, shining steel guitar"). String sounds do predominate, as much plucked as bowed. Interesting sonically, but abstract, impenetrable. B+(*)

Giulia Valle Group: Danze Imprevista (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Recorded Nov. 14-15, but doesn't say the year, so I'm guessing 2006. She has another Flash website, totally useless. From Tomajazz (as best I can hack the Italian) I gather she was born 1972 in Sanremo, Italy. Studied in Barcelona and seems to be based there. Plays bass. Wrote and arranged everything here except for a piece by Hermeto Pascoal and a theme from Hindemith she transfigured. Group is definitely Barcelona, with two saxes (Martí Serra and Miguel "Pintxo" Villar), Sergi Sirvent on piano, and David Xirgu on drums. Postbop, arty, but also swings some. I didn't care for the same two sax lineup on her previous Colorista, but this is more winning. B+(**)

Ken Vandermark: Ideas (2005 [2007], Not Two): One of a number of albums -- a couple dozen is a wild guess -- that are little more than impromptu improvs Vandermark cut on the road with whoever managed to hook up the recording equipment and a small label interested in the product. Here the road is in Poland, and the band are the Oles brothers, Marcin Oles on bass, Bartlomiej Brat Oles on drums. Typical, I would say. Mostly tenor sax, some clarinet, some baritone -- the latter strikes me once again as exceptional. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love: Seven (2005 [2006], Smalltown Supersound): Rhapsody lists this as a single, but at 43:55 it comes to more than LP length: one long pieces (26:36), one medium (14:03), one short (3:19). Duets, the third set between Vandermark and his favorite Norwegian drummer. The long one starts ugly and takes a while to sort itself out, before turning into the usual cornucopia of sonic assaults. That, in itself, is not something I'm inclined to complain about. But a better place to start, not least because it was thought out from the start, is Dual Pleasure. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 [2008], Atavistic): After a record every fall on the dot for six years or more, this one slipped past New Year's Day. This is pretty much the same record as the last one, A Discontinuous Line (2006), which marked the arrival of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Where the previous records with trombonist Jeb Bishop turned on their crack horn section arrangements, the Lonberg-Holm records are throwbacks to the earlier improv discs. That's just fine, especially when they break loose as emphatically as on the 6th and 8th cuts, "Compass Shatters Magnet" and "Desireless." After three plays, I'm holding back only because I'm already jammed with A-list records, and I haven't rated anything they've done lower since 2000's Burn the Incline. Plus I hope to play it some more. [B+(***)]

Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (2006 [2008], Atavistic): Downbeat's review mentions a second disc, included with the first 1500 copies, something called "The New York Suite: Part One's for Painters (for Willem De Kooning, Hans Hoffmann, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko), Part 2: Composers (for Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolf), Part 3: Improvisers (for Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor)." Didn't get my copy until well after initial release, and when it did come it didn't include the bonus disk. Previous teaser discs were eventually rereleased as Free Jazz Classics, Vols. 1-4. Every review I've read focuses on the integration of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm into the group -- this is the second album since he replaced Jeb Bishop. I don't really hear it or understand it. The cello lacks the volume and dynamics to compete with the horns, but one reason it does emerge more here is that there are a couple of softer pieces that lead with cello, and it matches up well against Vandermark's clarinet. But most of the pieces crank up the volume, and the one thing that emerges most clearly there is how terrific Vandermark has gotten on the baritone sax. This makes 13 albums in 11 years. The only one I didn't much care for was Simpatico, back in 1998, and the last one I held short of the A-list was Burn the Incline in 2000. Nothing here to complain about. A-

Peter Van Huffel Quintet: Silvester Battlefield (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Saxophonist, plays alto and soprano here, from Canada, now in Brooklyn. Quintet has a previous 2005 EP. Van Huffel has a 2003 album, Mind Over Matter, and a couple of group records, but this is the first I've heard. Quintet adds guitar (Scott DuBois), piano (Jesse Stacken), bass (Michael Bates), drums (Jeff Davis). This is postbop pushed a bit toward the edge, fairly adventurous stuff bit by bit, but it also sounds ordinarily adventurous -- bit by bit, stuff I'm used to hearing. B+(*)

Nick Vayenas: Synesthesia (2007 [2008], World Culture Music): Usually the first thing I do when I put a record on is write down the song list and the personnel list, noting instruments broken down by track. The requisite information is available here, on the inside of the cardboard gatefold cover, but it's formatted using abbreviations of names and instruments that require several mappings, all printed in microscopic all caps type with little contrast and registration blur (semi-white on semi-brown). My eyes just aren't up to it. Vayenas was born in Boston, studied at Berklee, plays trombone. First album, or second counting one co-led by saxophonist Patrick Cornelius (on board here). Other musicians here, as far as I can tell, are: Aaron Parks, Matt Brewer, Janek Gwizdala, and vocalist Gretchen Parlato, none of which clearly accounts for the synth fusion bubbling beneath the horns. I like the trombone, of course, and Cornelius shows some flashy sax, but the synthy stuff doesn't quite come off, and Parlato's vocal wash is de trop. B

Cuong Vu: Vu-Tet (2007 [2008], ArtistShare): Trumpet player, fond of electronics, born 1969 in Vietnam, emigrated to Seattle 6 years later, moved to New York in 1994. Fifth album since 1999. Also has a significant credits list, including key roles over several albums each with Chris Speed's Yeah No, Myra Melford's The Tent and Be Bread, and Pat Metheny Group. (Other creditss: Orange Then Blue, Bobby Previte, Andy Laster, Jamie Saft, Dave Douglas, Gerry Hemingway, Assif Tsahar, Satoko Fujii, Matthias Lupri, Mark O'Leary/Tom Rainey.) Quartet here, with Speed on unspecified reeds, Stomu Takeishi on bass guitar, and Ted Poor on drums. These are interesting musicians, but here at least together they tend to congeal into sludge. The bass lines don't go much beyond heavy metal, the electronics aren't clear, and I don't have a clue what Speed is doing. At least the trumpet has some contrast. B

Mike Walbridge's Chicago Footwarmers: Crazy Rhythm (1966-2007 [2007], Delmark): Born 1937 in Los Angeles, Walbridge moved from trumpet to sousaphone in his high school band, moved to Chicago after a stint in the military, joined the Original Salty Dogs, and founded the Chicago Footwarmers Hot Dance Orchestra in 1958, playing tuba. That trad jazz never changes is proven by the near-seamless pairing of a 1966-67 9-track LP with 8 new tracks from 40 years later. What holds it together is fellow Salty Dog Kim Cusack, who plays clarinet and alto sax on both sessions. He goes back even further, recording most frequently with James Dapogny, Ernie Carson, and Bob Schulz, although he also has a nice 1967-2007 pair of credits with Jim Kweskin and Maria Muldaur. While the 1967 sessions have extra piano, the most distinctly satisfying thing about this record is its elemental foursquare structure -- clarinet over tuba, banjo with drums -- as basic as trad jazz gets. A-

Aaron Weinstein & John Pizzarelli: Blue Too (2007 [2008], Arbors): Don't have a birth date for Weinstein, but when his first album (A Handful of Stars) came out he was still in his teens. A violinist, cites Joe Venuti at the head of his list of influences. For his debut, Weinstein tapped Bucky Pizzarelli for his Eddie Lang. Here he settles for the son, who turns out to be a pretty good match, and a steady next step after his star-studded debut showed so much taste and erudition. B+(**)

Westchester Jazz Orchestra: All In (2007, WJO): First time through I liked this relative no-name unit, presumably based in the Westchester suburbs although most likely there are a few ringers from the city present, more than I do Gerald Wilson's (not to mention Maria Schneider's) expensive all-stars. (For the record, I recognize 7 of 17, some barely.) So maybe it doesn't just come down to money (except come Grammy Time). Music director here is Mike Holober, who turned in a nice big band record a few years back called Thought Trains (Sons of Sound). But the arrangements come from all over, including non-members, and the one cut I don't care for is Holober's Beatles arrangement ("Here Comes the Sun"; hard to imagine that one ever working). Otherwise, the horns snap, the band swings, they have a lot of fun. [B+(**)]

Westchester Jazz Orchestra: All In (2007, WJO): Close enough to New York that music director Mike Holober -- who did a good big band record under his own name called Thought Trains a few years back -- can draw on plenty of top-notch musicians, bringing this up to above-average in all the usual respects. But I'd advise against tackling any Beatles song (much less "Here Comes the Sun") given badly they've been chewed up and spit out as muzak. This one is better than I expected, but still not good enough. B+(*)

Lauren White: At Last (2006 [2007], Groove Note): Singer, from Dallas-Fort Worth area, reported to be 20 years old. Three songs look like originals, credited to "(L White, W White)"; rest are covers, mostly Gershwin-Porter era standards, but also Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," Leon Russell's "Superstar," and Lee Ann Womack's "Why They Call It Falling." Some good musicians, including tenor saxophonist Ricky Woodward on 4 cuts, guitarist Anthony Wilson on 4, and pianist Bill Cunliffe on 3. All that suggests good taste, albeit nothing distinctive or idiosyncratic. Not much of a jazz singer, though. B-

The Whit Williams' "Now's the Time" Big Band: Featuring Slide Hampton and Jimmy Heath (2004 [2008], MAMA): Pretty descriptive title, as best I can parse it. Williams came from North Carolina, settled into Baltimore after the Korean War, and has run an unsung local big band since 1981. This is their first album. Hampton and Heath are guest stars, and they brought big chunks of their books with them, joining three Williams originals, "Una Mas" (Kenny Dorham), and "Little Rootie Tootie" (Thelonious Monk). Crisp solos, solid section work, plenty of swing, pretty much what you'd expect in a big band these days. B+(*)

The Willie Williams Trio: Comet Ride (2007, Miles High): Common name: Wikipedia has six entries, none of which work. This Willie Williams was born in Philadelphia in 1958, plays tenor and soprano sax, has four albums under his own name (first in 1988, last before this in 1993). Studied with Marshall Taylor, did a turn with Arthur Taylor's Wailers, worked in Odean Pope's sax choir and Clifford Jordan's big band. Wrote all the pieces here except for "Caravan" and the Eddie Harris-Jimmy Heath collage he arranged as "Freedom Suite." Basically a hard bop player with more grit than usual. [B+(**)]

The Willie Williams Trio: Comet Ride (2007, Miles High): Sax-bass-drums trio, nothing fancy, just hard, fast bop, swinging especially hard on the closing "Caravan." B+(**)

Larry Willis: The Offering (2007 [2008], High Note): Piano trio on 5 of 8 tracks, nice postbop stuff, much as you'd expect with Eddie Gomez and Bily Drummond in tow. The other 3 tracks add mainstream tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. He's a fair match for Willis, and does pretty much what you'd expect, fast or slow, up or down. On the other hand, so much as expected gets ordinary fast. B

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods (2007, Mack Avenue): I suppose Gil Evans got there first, but Wilson seems like the founder of the post-big-band modern jazz orchestra, centered on an arranger, assembled from time to time from spare musicians, often of stellar quality. Wilson got his break long ago, replacing Sy Oliver as Jimmie Lunceford's arranger, but he didn't emerge in his own right until the early 1960s, when he cut a series of albums for Pacific Jazz, drawing on west coast musicians who were particularly adept at carrying big band harmony into the bebop era. He vanished during the 1970s, but in the 1980s came back and has come up with commissions and albums every few years, lately with some really high-powered bands, peaking well into his 80s with In My Time. This one is less immediately persuasive, and there are still things I'm unclear about, and don't feel like forcing right now. [B+(**)]

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods (2007, Mack Avenue): A big band with a lot of star power -- nearly everyone on board is a name I've heard of, the five trumpets starting with Jon Faddis and ending with Terrell Stafford, the rhythm section Renee Rosnes, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash. The material is more hit and miss, but "Latin Swing" really takes your breath away, and "Blues" follows strongly, with son Anthony Wilson finding a solo role for the guitar. Wilson pčre didn't spend a lot of time on titles: three swing, two waltz, one goes "Allegro," one is just "Bass Solo." B+(**)

Tony Wilson 6Tet: Pearls Before Swine (2007, Drip Audio): Another common name. AMG lists 15, including a few Anthonys. The best known is probably the English record producer and Factory Records founder. My favorite is the Hot Chocolate bassist, especially for his 1976 solo album I Like Your Style. Among jazz guitarists, Gerald Wilson's son Anthony is much better known. This Tony Wilson comes from Vancouver and also plays guitar. The 6Tet adds trumpet, sax, violin, bass, and drums, with some electronics mixed in, for a full-bodied sound that maps closest to fusion, sometimes fevered approaching avant, sometimes not. I go up and down on it. B

Tony Wilson/Peggy Lee/Jon Bentley: Escondido Dreams (2007, Drip Audio): This is both more interesting and less satisfying than the 6Tet album. Where the 6Tet tends to go over the top hoping to sweep you away, this is pretty minimal, which puts it more clearly in avant territory. Bentley plays tenor, soprano, and C melody sax, but tends to follow rather than lead, adding color to the abstract frameworks. Lee's cello is more central, setting the pace and tone for the others. Wilson plays kalimba and charango as well as guitar, and they emerge more fully than in the 6Tet. B+(*)

Michael Winograd: Bessarabian Hop (2007 [2008], Midwood Sounds): Klezmer clarinetist, based in Brooklyn, works with the Klezmatics, Frank London, numerous others. Strikes me as more klezmer than jazz, or maybe I mean that it repeats familiar motifs without mixing them up in surprising ways. Lovely clarinet, spritely group play, pretty solid within its niche. B+(**)

Raya Yarbrough (2006 [2008], Telarc): Singer-songwriter, from Los Angeles. First album, eponymous, like a star the whole world has just been waiting for, a simple revelation of her just being herself. Most jazz singers are interpreters, partly because they've been driven out of rock and pop by songwriters who have found their adequate voices workable. But lately we've seen a few singer-songwriters slotted as jazz, a bit of niche marketing that rarely seems appropriate (but sure paid off for Norah Jones). Yarbrough is part of that incursion, but she's also got a terrific voice, and her jazz moves are better than Amy Winehouse's. Starts off with a blues, "Lord Knows I Would," that had me thinking she could crack the A-list, although I was still a bit worried about all the special guests, many armed with string instruments. By the time the record ended, I was thinking she could be as flat out annoying as Meatloaf. Clearly an uncommon talent. Don't know what the hell to do with her yet. [B]

Raya Yarbrough (2006 [2008], Telarc): The leadoff blues "Lord Knows I Would" is a choice cut, and her "Mood Indigo" shows she could be a standards threat. But her singer-songwriter fare is overorchestrated, pretentiously so -- I'm reminded of such long-forgotten pop-rock icons as Andy Pratt. As rockers figured out, such affectations do little to make us care about the songs, which at bottom is what songwriting is about. As such, it's hard to find reason to care about these. She's talented, but it's not clear what for. B-

Libby York: Here With You (2007 [2008], Libby York Music): Singer, from Chicago but spent the 1980s in New York, studying with Abbey Lincoln and Judy Niemack. Started singing professionally at 35, and now had 3 albums in her mid-40s. Sings standards ("You Go to My Head," "But Beautiful," "Azure Te," "Flamingo"). Mid-range voice with precise intonation, able to wrap old chestnuts in fine leather or lace. Guitarist Howard Alden gets credit for arrangements, but yields to Russell Malone on three cuts. Renee Rosnes gets credit as Production Assistant ("the world's most overqualified"), but no piano, a clever omission which leaves plenty of room for Warren Vaché's delectable cornet -- much better than his duet on "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," which is sort of winning nonetheless. B+(***)

Jon Zeeman: Zeeland (2008, Membrane): Plays guitar, keyboards. Based in New York. Touring credits include Susan Tedeschi, Janis Ian, the Allman Brothers. Second album. Straight funk-fusion, sometimes with organ. Refiled this under Pop Jazz, at which point the guitar emerged as better than average. B-

ZMF Trio: Circle the Path (2005 [2007], Drip Audio): ZMF stands for Jesse Zubot (violin), Jean Martin (drums), Joe Fonda (bass). Label describes them as international: Zubot is from Vancouver, Martin from Toronto, Fonda is well known on the avant-garde in New York. Zubot is also involved in the rockish Fond of Tigers group, and he runs the label, which has branched out beyond his own work -- a few more items are on my shelf, including a new John Butcher album, and he seems to have something by Leroy Jenkins in the pipeline. Other than that, don't know much about him. This is avant, by turns aggressive and moody. Martin wrote one piece, Fonda three, Zubot four. The only outside credit is to Anthony Braxton. Didn't catch enough of it first time through, but will play more. [B+(***)]

John Zorn: The Dreamers (2007 [2008], Tzadik): Not much evidence of Zorn's alto sax here. In some ways this more closely resembles his Film Works, although having heard only one or two of what are now 19 volumes hardly makes me any kind of expert. A dozen groove pieces, most led by Marc Ribot's guitar, with keyboards (Jamie Saft), vibes (Kenny Wollesen), bass (Trevor Dunn), drums (Joey Baron), and percussion (Cyro Baptista). Several build into substantial pieces of music, while most ingratiate and beguile. An earlier album, The Gift, is reputed to be similar. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

John Zorn: Filmworks XIX: The Rain Horse (2008, Tzadik): Might as well check out some of the latest film music while I'm at it. Zorn is prodigious, especially since he started his own label. The label doesn't provide any promos to reviewers, a big disappointment when I started Jazz CG. I've picked up his records when I had the chance, but have only heard a dozen or so out of more than 100 -- some wonderful, at least one awful. This one was written for a film by Russian animator Dmitri Geller. The pieces are played by Rob Burger on piano, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Greg Cohen on bass. Minor charms, the kind of thing that slips into a film without you noticing too much, but stands up to playing on its own. Leans a bit toward Russian, by which I mean Jewish, chamber music. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Carry Over

The following records, carried over from the done file at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for this column.

  1. Eric Alexander: Temple of Olympic Zeus (2007, High Note) B-
  2. The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Music From Guys and Dolls (2007, Arbors) A-
  3. The Jimmy Amadie Trio: The Philadelphia Story: The Gospel as We Know It (2006-07 [2007], TP) B+(**)
  4. Chris Barber: Can't Stop Now (European Tour 2007) (2007, MVD Audio) B+(**)
  5. Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 [2007], Savant) B+(***)
  6. Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (2007, Watt) B+(**)
  7. Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee (2001 [2007], ECM) B+(**)
  8. Bloodcount: Seconds (1997 [2007], Screwgun, 2CD+DVD) A-
  9. Rob Brown Trio: Sounds (2006 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  10. Evan Christopher: Delta Bound (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(**)
  11. Joe Cohn: Restless (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  12. Lars Danielsson & Leszek Mozdzer: Pasodoble (2006-07 [2007], ACT) B+(***)
  13. Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  14. Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark) B+(***)
  15. Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 [2007], Altrisuoni) B+(**)
  16. Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (2006 [2007], Stomp Off) A-
  17. Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Jazz Standard (2006 [2007], Greenleaf/Koch, 2CD) B+(***)
  18. The Engines (2006 [2007], Okka Disk) B+(**)
  19. Alvin Fielder Trio: A Measure of Vision (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  20. Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane (2005 [2007], Skipstone) B+(***)
  21. Dennis González NY Quartet: At Tonic: Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue (2003-04 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  22. Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
  23. Joan Hickey: Between the Lines (2006, Origin) B+(**)
  24. Hiromi's Sonicboom: Time Control (2006 [2007], Telarc) B-
  25. Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 [2007], Musical Legends) B+(***)
  26. Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park: Local Lingo (2006 [2007], Euonymus) B+(**)
  27. Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
  28. Nigel Kennedy: Blue Note Sessions (2005 [2007], Blue Note) B+(***)
  29. The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  30. Omer Klein/Haggai Cohen Milo: Duet (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  31. Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor (2006 [2007], Chamsa) A-
  32. Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas/Ramon Lopez: Kalimba (2006 [2007], ACT) B+(***)
  33. Steve Kuhn Trio: Live at Birdland (2006 [2007], Blue Note) B+(***)
  34. Steve Kuhn: Pastorale (2002 [2007], Sunnyside) B+(***)
  35. David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 [2006], Geestgronden) B+(***)
  36. Mário Laginha Trio: Espaço (2007, Clean Feed) B+(**)
  37. Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra: Maria Juanez (2004 [2007], TCB) B+(***)
  38. Steve Lehman Quartet: Manifold (2007, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  39. George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie) (2004 [2006], Intakt) B+(***)
  40. Lisbon Improvisation Players: Spiritualized (2006, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  41. Mat Marucci-Doug Webb Trio: Change-Up (2006 [2007], CIMP) B+(***)
  42. Kate McGarry: The Target (2007, Palmetto) B-
  43. Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Black Unstoppable (2007, Delmark) B-
  44. Mi3: Free Advice (2004 [2007], Clean Feed) A
  45. Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana: Miren (A Longing) (2006 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  46. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (2006 [2007], Hot Cup) A
  47. Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter) B+(**)
  48. Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2005 [2007], ECM) B+(***)
  49. Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  50. Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 [2008], Plunk) B+(***)
  51. Maria Schneider Orchestra: Sky Blue (2007, ArtistShare) B
  52. Matt Shulman: So It Goes (2006 [2007], Jaggo) B
  53. Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 [2007], Okka Disk) B+(***)
  54. Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 [2007], Mel Bay) B+(***)
  55. Dan Willis: Velvet Gentlemen (2003 [2006], Omnitone) B+(***)
  56. Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 [2007], Leaf Note) B+(***)