Jazz Consumer Guide (22):
Digital Primitives: Hum Crackle & Pop (Hopscotch) Cooper-Moore has the real folk jazz spirit, clowning on homemade instruments and singing one piece that starts politically obvious but comes to exemplify the freedom he espouses. Assif Tsahar, on tenor sax and bass clarinet, and Chad Taylor, on all things percussive, adapt their free jazz, playing along without settling into mere groove. A MINUS
The Fully Celebrated: Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity) A trio led by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, drunk on Ornette Coleman for starters: start with a basic funk or blues groove, lay on a deceptively simple sax melody, and deconstruct. A
Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics: Inspiration Information (Strut) A percussionist who has merged his Ethiopian roots and western acculturation into something he calls Ethio-jazz meets up with a band of technofied Sun Ra worshippers, who push him into harder grooves and improvise around the riddims. A MINUS
Jerry Bergonzi: Simply Put (Savant) Nothing fancy, just another exemplary textbook of mainstream tenor sax. A MINUS
James Carter: Heaven on Earth (Half Note) No new ground here: starts with Django Reinhardt, recaps Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, blows up a blues from Leo Parker and Ike Quebec, winds up with Larry Young's title cut. Organ and guitar try to fix Carter's retro in a soul jazz matrix, but he plays much too large for that. A MINUS
Freddy Cole: The Dreamer in Me (High Note) With the genes, the speakeasy pipes, even a bit of the piano, he always begged and denied likeness to his big brother, but now he's thirty years older than Nat ever got to be. Cut live uptown, loose, gracious, he finally finds his role, as the living legend that never was. A MINUS
Lars Danielsson: Tarantella (ACT) The Swedish bassist composes delectable but spare melodies, sweetening them with his cello and bass violin, Leszek Mozdzer's piano, and John Paricelli's guitar. Mathias Eick's trumpet adds the polish and sheen of brass, and Eric Harland can go exotic on the percussion. In short, everything you might want in a piece of ECM environmentalism, minus the bleak cover photo. A MINUS
Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali: Art-Work (Origin) A 70-year-old pianist few have heard of -- inspired by Bud Powell, taught by Jaki Byard, always turns out thoughtful albums -- goes live with two 70-year-old avant-gardists, each as fascinating in his own right. A MINUS
Dennis González Jnaana Septet: The Gift of Discernment (Not Two) Leena Conquest's vocals are integral here, imparting an aura of spiritual ecstasy, although as usual I prefer the leader's down-to-earth trumpet. Both are propelled by an endless river of percussion -- three drummers including batas, bass, and sparkling Chris Parker piano. A MINUS
Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity (ACT) Iyer's first piano trio marks personal history, reworking four originals within a context ranging from Andrew Hill and Julius Hemphill to Stevie Wonder and M.I.A. Also shows off his chops: how he drives the rhythm while throwing off sparkling fills. A MINUS
Adam Lane/Lou Grassi/Mark Whitecage: Drunk Butterfly (Clean Feed) The bassist gets top billing because of his knack for setting up grooves that turn free-oriented saxophonists on rather than off. He did that with Vinny Golia in Zero Degree Music; here he gets the most accessible work ever out of Whitecage. In her liner notes, Slim calls this "avant swinging bebop." That's right. A MINUS
Steve Lehman Octet: Travail, Transformation, and Flow (Pi) Lehman's octet isn't a big band wannabe. It's a toolkit he employs surgically, making sharp cuts then polishing them up, often with a shower of Chris Dingman's vibes. His alto sax is all but lost in the mix. No need to show off when he has so many other options to juxtapose. A MINUS
Chris Morrissey Quartet: The Morning World (Sunnyside) The young bassist's indelible grooves are driven home by drummer Dave King and spiced up by King's Happy Apple bandmate Michael Lewis exploring tangential jazz angles with all kinds of saxes. A MINUS
De Nazaten & James Carter: Skratyology (Strotbrock) The offspring of libertine Prince Hendrik promiscuously adopt the rhythms of former Dutch colony Surinam, with three drummers and lots of brass. The guest isn't really needed, but he puts on a mighty demonstration of his prize-winning baritone sax nonetheless. A MINUS
Roswell Rudd: Trombone Tribe (Sunnyside) Several tribes, actually: the title group with three trombones and Bob Stewart on tuba; one called Bonerama with five plus a sousaphone; the Gangbe Brass Band of Benin; and Sex Mob, which qualifies when Rudd weighs in; also, scattered unnamed groups with everyone from Eddie Bert to Ray Anderson to Josh Roseman. And what do trombone tribes do? Duh, party! A MINUS
Tim Sparks: Little Princess (Tzadik) The music of klezmer clarinet king Naftule Brandwein loosened up and spread out for fingerpicked guitar, with Greg Cohen's bass and Cyro Baptista's percussion taking further liberties. Genuinely easy listening, but you should really call it jazz. A MINUS
Ulf Wakenius: Love Is Real (ACT) Following his gratifyingly spare Keith Jarrett songbook album, Notes From the Heart, the Swedish guitarist takes on another pianist's repertoire: EST's Esbjörn Svensson. The rockish rhythms support fancier arrangements, some with strings and horns. Cut before Svensson died in a scuba diving accident, it turns out to be an elegant and touching tribute. A MINUS
Arthur Kell Quartet: Victoria (Bju'ecords) Bassist writes tight little figures, spun by Brad Shepik's guitar and Loren Stillman's alto sax into harmolodic heaven.
Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch) A New Orleans pro with beaucoup connections shows a light touch for trad jazz.
Mulatu Astatke: New York-Addis-London: The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 (Strut) Got out of Swinging Addis while the getting was good, picking up Latin and jazz notions and spicing them with hints of home.
Joe Morris: Wildlife (AUM Fidelity) Not so distinctive a bassist, but like every saxophonist he trios with -- Petr Cancura here -- gets a jolt of freedom.
Paul Giallorenzo: Get In to Go Out (482 Music) Josh Berman and Dave Rempis enjoy the free jousting of a pianoless quartet, while the pianist-leader finds clever ways to contribute.
The Second Approach Trio With Roswell Rudd: The Light (SoLyd) Passing through Moscow, the great trombonist gets sucked into a maelstrom of flying scat and piano like he never left the '60s.
Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: About Us (482 Music) Following an album about their ancestors they tap into themselves for the sound of Chicago today.
Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us to Volume 1 (Pi) Too much flute, some dead spots, but miraculous stretches confirm the leader's genius, a relief after too long a break.
Chris Potter Underground: Ultrahang (ArtistShare) Electrified with Adam Rogers's guitar and Craig Taborn's Fender Rhodes, the sax whiz card pumps up the volume.
Chad Taylor: Circle Down (482 Music) Drummer-led piano trio, a snappier strategy than letting the pianist run things.
The Aggregation: Groove's Mood (DBCD) LaTanya Hall sings a couple of Stevie Wonder songs, bait for Eddie Allen's brass stylings.
The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Plays Music From South Pacific (Arbors) A swinging enchanted evening, with singers Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Erickson cornier than Kansas in August.
Avram Fefer: Ritual (Clean Feed) Freebop sax trio imagines "Shepp in Wolves' Clothing" and other fractious fairy tales.
Joe Morris Quartet: Today on Earth (AUM Fidelity) Returns to guitar trading lines with Jim Hobbs -- a kinder, gentler Fully Celebrated.
Louis Sclavis: Lost on the Way (ECM) Double reeds romp and roll over Maxime Delpierre's guitar buzz.
Erik Friedlander: Broken Arm Trio (Skipstone) Cello-led string bop -- light, loose, slightly oblique.
Jeff Johnson: Tall Stranger (Origin) Bass-centered trio, the playing field leveled with Hans Teuber's faint reeds and soft splashes on the drums.
John Patitucci Trio: Remembrance (Concord) Bassist's record, so note the solos, the sonic balance, the nuanced grooves, not just Joe Lovano.
Dave Holland/Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Chris Potter/Eric Harland: The Monterey Quartet (Monterey Jazz Festival) Live postbop superstar jam, the pianist's Afro-Cuban vibe feeding everyone's thoughts.
Peter Delano: For Dewey (1996, Sunnyside) More importantly, featuring Dewey -- the late Mr. Redman's tenor on three of eight cuts, vibrant as ever.
The Ron Hockett Quintet: Finally Ron (Arbors) Longtime journeyman clarinetist gets the Arbors red carpet treatment for another round of those good ole good uns.
Branford Marsalis Quartet: Metamorphosen (Marsalis Music) Same quartet as Requiem ten years ago, the CEO letting the crew do the work while he perfects his soprano.
Lucky 7s: Pluto Junkyard (Clean Feed) Freebop grunge, muscled up with double-barreled lead trombones, gussied up with splashes of cornet and vibes.
Marty Grosz: Hot Winds (Arbors) Rhythm guitarist cranks the winds, supplied by Dan Block and Scott Robinson, up to hot.
Oliver Jones/Hank Jones: Pleased to Meet You (Justin Time) An Oscar Peterson-inspired piano trio reinforced by an elder whose extra piano adds more depth and gravity than flash.
Stacey Dillard: One (Smalls) Tenor saxophonist, fierce at high speeds, soulful when he slows down.
Steve Shapiro/Pat Bergeson: Backward Compatible (Apria) Swinging guitar-vibes duo, with Nashville Hot Clubber Annie Sellick pledging her love to daddy.
Dennis González: A Matter of Blood (Furthermore) Old school avant-garde, mournful trumpet over a hard-working Curtis Clark-Reggie Workman-Michael T.A. Thompson rhythm section.
Miroslav Vitous Group with Michel Portal: Remembering Weather Report (ECM) Strange thing, memory, blotting out fusion keyboards in favor of Dvorak variations on Ornette and Miles.
Johnny Varro & Ken Peplowski: Two Legends of Jazz (Arbors) Journeymen on piano and clarinet evoke the legendary era of small group swing.
Rez Abbasi: Things to Come (Sunnyside) Four songs with Indian vocals fortify the extended Indo-Pak Coalition, but the world-class band eschews fusion for postbop.
Harry Allen: New York State of Mind (Challenge) A graceful swing through town, from "Harlem Nocturne" to "Chinatown My Chinatown."
Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: Thin Air (Thirsty Ear) Beat up chamber jazz played ineptly for anti-folk, sung worse. B MINUS
Robert Glasper: Double Booked (Blue Note) Continues to make nice progress as a mainstream piano trioist, but his Experiment is unstable, prone to stink bombs. B MINUS
Originally published in Village Voice, Apr 06, 2010
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.
Album count: 51; Word count: 1755 (graded 23: 1088; additional 28: 667).
Past review counts: 21: 13 / 37 (9+19+9) / 3 (1842); 20: 13 / 32 (4+21+7) / 3 (1736); 19: 14 / 32 (5+23+4) / 3 (1723); 18: 10 / 16 (3+9+4) / 3 (1355); 17: 11 / 24 (6+15+3) / 3 (1423); 16: 14 / 11 (1+7+3) / 3 (1360). Initial count here: 29 / 56 (7+39+10) / 2 (3060); first cut down to: 17 / 33 (4+25+4) / 2 (1925).
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 collected here.
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.
All pending record notes have been moved forward.