Jazz Consumer Guide (20):
A Summer Suite of Harmonic Disorder
Transcending roots and relishing every moment, whether
you've got the rhythm section or not
by Tom Hull
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York:
With esteemed free thinkers at every position -- like Elery Eskelin
and Tony Malaby at tenor sax and Steven Bernstein and Herb Robertson
at trumpet -- this big band packs fierce solo power, but Fujii flexes
all that muscle masterfully. Her suite runs the loud-quiet, sweet-sour
gamut, a model of tight composition and daring arrangement, driven by
a rhythm section that hews close enough to the beat, with a trio of
trombones doing the heavy lifting.
The Matthew Shipp Trio:
His early records were strictly avant-garde piano, often in improv
duos, but when he took command of this experimental rock label's jazz
series he cranked up the electronics and folded in DJ beats, inventing
avant-jazztronica on such releases as Nu Bop and Harmony and
Abyss. Lately he's reverted to solo and trio albums, less to shore
up his jazz pianist cred than to prove he never really needed
electronics to deliver dense harmonics and snappy rhythm. Nods to Monk
and Powell recall roots he's moved beyond.
Live at Belleville
One of the young Norwegians George Russell took under his wing in
the late 1960s. Bassist Andersen isn't as well known as Jan Garbarek
or Terje Rypdal, with a big chunk of discography under Masqualero,
a group now better known for Nils Petter Molvaer. Just a trio here.
His playing is masterful, but it's hard to concentrate on bass when
tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith gets up a full head of steam.
The Cole Porter Mix
She takes Porter as a fellow modernist and drags him into a world
where modernity's future has dimmed. The songs are slower, sadder,
hazier, their flippant irony transmuted into ambiguity. The guitar-driven
music is, if anything, even more art deco and elegant than her singing.
Chris Potter's tenor sax breaks grab you every time, then fade into the
Jorge Lima Barreto:
Impromptu solo piano constuctions over João Marques Carrilho's ambient
electronics -- random radio sweeps on the 45:12 "Zul," four CD players
cycling air-earth-water-fire ambience on the 30:10 "Zelub." It's never
clear whether it's Barreto or the listener who turns the randomness
into meaning and makes conceptual art real.
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel:
Canadian alto saxophonist Carrier started out chasing that old Trane,
but with long-time drummer chum Lambert he finally caught the spirit
and found his own sound. Steve Lacy bassist Avenel pushes them even
further inside their telepathic free jazz vein.
The Digital Box
A scrapbook of the saxophonist's trek spread out on seven downloadable
CDRs: one from 1999 with Dewey Redman, plus various 2004-06 sets -- two
duos with drummer Michel Lambert, the rest adding bass and sometimes
guitar. De trop, you might think, but the introspection keeps drawing
me in as he fleshes out his world.
Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble:
Proverbs for Sam
A belated tribute to alto saxophonist Sam Furnace, who died two
years later, but who in this Vision Festival set holds the musical
center ground with super-bassist William Parker while the leader's
squeaky Asian double-reeds (soona, shenai, nagaswarm, digeridoo),
Cooper-Moore's diddly bow, and multiple percussionists swarm in
pursuit of their otherworldly avant-exotica.
Satoko Fujii Trio
Trace a River
The pianist plays a jaunty little figure, then the notes descend
into a loud crash. She wends her way through meditative quiet,
then all hell breaks loose. The often inscrutable bassist Mark
Dresser finds he can push a groove as hard as anyone, and drummer
Jim Black relishes every moment.
Born in Bakshiria, perched in the Urals on the ancient seam
between Europe and Asia, saxophonist Kireyev's Feng Shui Jazz
Project plays delicately balanced east-west grooves, with a
bit of throat singing, a lot of sinuous guitar, a Senegalese
conga player, and spiritual encouragement from John Coltrane.
William Parker Quartet:
Two free-wheeling horns backed by the hardest working rhythm
section in avant-jazz -- the leader on bass and Hamid Drake
on drums -- this has been a glorious group ever since *O'Neal's
Porch* dropped in 2000. Here, surprisingly, the horns hew to
the heads and the pulse conjures hard bop. That's what happens
when the leader's writing evolves from scenarios into full
Human Activity Suite
The liner notes lecture on anthropogenic climate change, and
namedrop a reading list I can vouch for as some of the best
nonfiction of the last decade-plus. The music is a different
sort of human activity. Shepik's guitar, saz, and tambura
skitter across a world of rhythms, most obviously from the
Balkans, where Ralph Alessi's trumpet and Gary Versace's
A 74-year-old pianist does a lot of little things he rarely
gets credit for, like writing for horns -- Vincent Herring and
Jeremy Pelt never enter a song here unless they have something
cogent to say, which isn't always the case on their own albums.
The pianist is in top form too, maybe because Peter Washington
and Al Foster leave him no slack.
Count Basie Orchestra:
Mustermesse Basel 1956 Part 1
Early New Testament band, the arrangements just barely sub-atomic,
but with Old Testament virtues, like soloists who aren't just cogs
in the machine.
(1965, High Note)
His blues touched by grace, charm, and swing, a singer who could bring
out the old-time religion in brothers Sims and Cohn.
Raoul Björkenheim/William Parker/Hamid Drake:
DMG @ the Stone: Volume 2
Slash and grind guitar supported by *the* rhythm section, with a
snake-charming shawm bonus.
Warmed by soft Claus Ogerman strings, melting the heartbreak of the
cold north with nice little samba songs.
Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina:
Live at the Village Vanguard
Cuban classics made simple, just bass supporting the 86-year-old
An old pianist with a light touch, his trio fluffed up with extra
percussion, his catchy melodies undiminished.
Saxman Phil Dwyer cooks up some Rollins, Parker, Monk, with an
intriguing spice from "Isfahan."
The European Quartet Live
A saxophonist with patient poise on the slow ones, fierce resolve
on the fast ones.
Bassist-led pianoless quartet, the tight writing neatly binding
a dense, complex thrash of trumpet and sax.
Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble:
Roscoe Mitchell leads a feisty American contingent to this
avant-garde summit, but Parker prevails, his soprano sax
rising above it all.
Natsuki Tamura's avant-folk quartet, with Kazuhiko Tsumura's tart
guitar and and Satoko Fujii's swaying accordion.
Guitarist-composer's date, but all the choice spots go to
heavyweight tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado.
Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet:
Swing saxophonist in a bebop quartet brings out the Bird but
also the funk.
A quintet of hard bop all-stars play seven compositions mailed
in by strangers.
Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 3
Jimmy Smith's old drummer gets the call, and flares out to
Odean Pope who crashes upfield, with Charles Tolliver kicking the
Straightforward Omaha saxophonist leads Afro-Cuban group,
transposing "Iowa Folk Song" and "Bata Boogie."
Roger Davidson & Raúl Jaurena:
Pasión por la Vida
Pianist Davidson writes a batch of tangos; Jaurena's bandoneón
renders his fascination classic.
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber:
Making Love to the Dark Ages
Embracing the real dark side: furtive, resilient, so clever it
could pass harmlessly as mood music.
Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii:
Husband-wife duets, his trumpet warm and supportive, her piano
stark and brash.
Satoko Fujii/Myra Melford:
Under the Water
Two avant-pianists square off for three duets and a solo apiece,
rumbling and waxing eloquent.
Say It Plain
Basie ghost trumpeter runs rings around the post-Marsalis neotrad
John Ettinger/Pete Forbes:
Violinist and drummer, switching on keyboards and setting up loops --
compelling fast, intriguing slow, lovely when they tune in "Stardust."
Steve Herberman Trio:
Subtly hinting at Wes Montgomery groove and Joe Pass craftsmanship.
Another gray world, the palette thinned down to acoustic piano and
Vibe Over Perfection
Forty years ago he would have been a terrific soul singer, but the
moment passed, so he looks back to Basie.
Writings on the Wall
Israeli guitarist who feels Palestinian plays Montgomery lines with
Bo's Art Trio:
Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We!
The poet's sane revolution is just for fun, like Bo van de Graaf's sax.
Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2
Amiri Baraka's blues people from Africa to be-bop and hip-hop, atop
church sax vamps and big band breaks.
Sunny Then Cloudy
More Satoko Fujii-Natsuki Tamura jousts, with John Hollenbeck's
fractured martial drums stirring up trouble.
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya:
An exhilarating blast of sci-fi fusion with occasional squawkfests
Anthony Braxton/Kyle Brenders:
Toronto (Duets) 2007
Tight sax dialogues, mostly soprano/sopranino, depend on little
Stones World: The Rolling Stones Project II
A worldwide tour, promoting the Stones' great idea: miscegnation.
The Blue Note 7:
Too mod for the Bill Charlap trio; too congested for the extra
horns and guitar.
East West Quintet:
(Native Language Music)
Not only don't they know how to fuse jazz and rock, this Brooklyn
groups is even confused about its name.
I count 1736 words. I have more than that leftover, so I figure
it's best to cram what you can into the print edition, then slip
the rest into the web page(s). I recommend cutting deepest from
the Honorable Mentions, especially the middle of the list:
Bridge Quartet (19), Ben Stapp (19), Andy Middleton (23),
Luis Lopes (22), Todd Coolman (19), Donald Bailey (33),
Craig Enright (19), Roger Davidson/Raul Jaurena (23),
Scotty Barnhart (18), Steve Herberman (16), Michel Sajrawy (18),
Bo's Art Trio (29), Billy Harper (30)
That gets you down to 1448. From the main list there's Kireyev (55),
Barreto (64), and Carrier's Digital Box (63). If that's not enough,
let me know. HMs are listed in given order, not priority; would like
to save Carrier in print if possible (although being a download,
there's a certain poetic justice to making it web only).
Pick hit contacts:
Fujii: Ann Braithwaite
Shipp: Rob Beam
Sorry this dragged out a bit. Thought I would finish it on vacation
first two weeks of July, but they nearly finished me instead.
This table provides a working guide to how the JCG is shaping up.
This does not include anything moved to bk-flush: these include items
relegated to Surplus, reviewed in Recycled Goods, or just passed over.
Entries in black are written, gray graded but
not written, red ungraded but with prospect
notes (all these are at the bottom of their approximate grade levels,
alphabetized). A-list, B-list and Duds are alphabetical; HM lists are
ranked, with breaks for three-two-one stars.
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Summer Suite (Libra) A
- The Matthew Shipp Trio: Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear) A
- Arild Andersen: Live at Belleville (ECM) A-
- Patricia Barber: The Cole Porter Mix (Blue Note) A-
- Jorge Lima Barreto: Zul Zelub (Clean Feed) A-
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel: Within (Leo) A-
- François Carrier: The Digital Box (Ayler) A-
- Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble: Proverbs for Sam (Boxholder) A-
- Satoko Fujii Trio: Trace a River (Libra) A-
- Oleg Kireyev: Mandala (Jazzheads) A-
- William Parker Quartet: Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity) A-
- Brad Shepik: Human Activity Suite (Songlines) A-
- Cedar Walton: Seasoned Wood (High Note) A-
- Count Basie Orchestra: Mustermesse Basel 1956 Part 1 (TCB) A-
- Jimmy Rushing: The Scene (High Note) A-
- Raoul Björkenheim/William Parker/Hamid Drake: DMG @ the Stone: Volume 2 (DMG/ARC) A-
- Diana Krall: Quiet Nights (Verve) A-
- Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina: Live at the Village Vanguard (Calle 54/Norte)
- Ahmad Jamal: It's Magic (Dreyfus)
- Bridge Quartet: Night (Origin)
- Andy Middleton: The European Quartet Live (Q-rious Music)
- Michael Bates: Clockwise (Greenleaf Music)
- Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon (ECM)
- Gato Libre: Kuro (Libra)
- Luis Lopes: Humanization 4Tet (Clean Feed)
- Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet: D.A.'s Time (TCB)
- Todd Coolman: Perfect Strangers (ArtistShare)
- Donald Bailey: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 3 (Talking House)
- Craig Enright: La Belleza . . . (CDBaby)
- Roger Davidson & Raúl Jaurena: Pasión por la Vida (Soundbrush)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Making Love to the Dark Ages (Live Wired)
- Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Chun (Libra)
- Satoko Fujii/Myra Melford: Under the Water (Libra)
- Scotty Barnhart: Say It Plain (Unity Music)
- John Ettinger/Pete Forbes: Inquatica (Ettinger Music)
- Steve Herberman Trio: Ideals (Reach Music)
- Wolfert Brederode: Currents (ECM)
- Jamie Davis: Vibe Over Perfection (Unity Music)
- Michel Sajrawy: Writings on the Wall (Ozella)
- Bo's Art Trio: Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We! (Icdisc)
- Billy Harper: Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2 (Talking House)
- Junk Box: Sunny Then Cloudy (Libra)
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Sanrei (Bamako)
- Anthony Braxton/Kyle Brenders: Toronto (Duets) 2007 (Barnyard)
- Tim Ries: Stones World: The Rolling Stones Project II (Sunnyside) B
- The Blue Note 7: Mosaic (Blue Note) B
- East West Quintet: Vast (Native Language Music) C+
Album count: 47; Word count: 1717 (graded 20: 1099; additional 27: 618).
I try to write up an informal note on every jazz record I hear the
first (or sometimes second) time I play it. Those notes are collected
over the course of a week, then posted in the blog. They are also
The surplus file collects final notes
when I decide that I cannot realistically keep a record under active
consideration for the Jazz Consumer Guide. These notes are mostly
written at the end of a JCG cycle and posted to the blog when the
column is printed. In effect, they are the extended copy to the
column. There are various reasons for this. For especially good
records, it is often because Francis Davis or someone else has
already reviewed it and my two cents would be redundant. For old
music it is often because I wrote something in Recycled Goods and
figure that was enough. Sometimes good records have just gotten
old. Most of the time the records aren't all that interesting
anyway. I can handle 25-30 records per column. It just doesn't
make sense for me to keep more than 60-80 graded records in the
active list at the start of a new cycle. In many cases, I decide
the prospecting notes or Recycled Goods review suffices, so note
that in the file.
Working on the following (both new and old). When done they will go
to the print or done
or flush file. When the column is published,
the done entries will be dumped into notebook.