Jazz Consumer Guide (25):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #25. 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 August 30, 2010 to December 13, 2010, 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 248 (plus 113 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 218 (+96).
(before that: 207+125, 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet: Natural Selection
(2010, Sunnyside): Largest print on the cover is the acronym RAAQ.
Pakistani-American guitarist, moved to US at age 4, grew up in
southern California, based in New York. Group includes Bill Ware
(vibes), Stephan Crump (bass), and Eric McPherson (drums). Good
showcase for Ware, especially at the start on a piece by Nusrat
Fateh Ali Khan.
Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms (2009 , Delmark):
Vibraphonist, the guy everyone in Chicago goes to when they want one.
Third album since 2008; pushing three dozen side credits. This one's
a trio with Nate McBride on bass and Mike Reed on drums. McBride is
Ken Vandermark's Boston bassist, and it's especially good to see him
getting around -- terrific player, really lifts this up, just the
setup the leader needs.
Ralph Alessi: Cognitive Dissonance (2004-05 ,
CAM Jazz): Trumpet player, father also played trumpet; from San
Rafael, CA, based in New York since 1991. Seventh album since 2002,
plus an impressive list of side-credits going back to 1992 -- he
is one of those musicians who always brightens up someone else's
album. No idea why this has been sitting around five years, but
its coming out now coincides with a flurry of Jason Moran credits.
Moran has some sparkling moments here, along with his usual drummer,
Nasheet Waits. Drew Gress, always dependable, plays bass. Alessi
doesn't produce enough dissonance to grab your ear, but he's a
sharp player and his leads grow on you.
Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Night Logic
(2009 , RogueArt): In the label's minimalist design style, the
artists are listed with first initials, but I figured I should go
ahead and spell them out. Allen is well into his 80s now; b. 1924,
he joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1956 and still directs it in its
ghost band phase. He has a few albums since the late 1990s with his
name on the marquee, like this one alongside other notables. He
plays alto sax and flute, and is gritty enough on the sax that he
draws out Shipp's David S. Ware Quartet mode, which itself is worth
the price of admission. Morris is best known for his guitar, but
plays bass here.
Amabutho: Sikelela (2010, Alma): South African
group, mbube vocals and relatively spare percussion, first album.
Looking around, I see that the group name is the title of the
first Ladysmith Black Mambazo album -- translates as warriors
or regiment, so probably not that significant. The percussion
is identified as marimba, the scales working for melody and the
deadened sound keeping the voices out front. First disc didn't
play; evidently it's a DVD.
Rodrigo Amado: Searching for Adam (2010, Not Two):
Tenor saxophonist, also plays baritone here, b. 1964, Portugal, has
put together an impressive discography since 2000, first with the
Lisbon Improvisation Players. Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet,
flugelhorn), John Hébert (double bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums).
Bynum's ecstatic squeal on the opener kicks this off in high gear.
Cleaver is especially formidable.
Marcos Amorim Trio: Portraits (2009 ,
Adventure Music): Brazilian guitarist, from Rio de Janeiro, has
at least three previous albums since 2002. Trio with bassist Jorge
Albuquerque (who writes the 3 of 10 pieces Amorim didn't) and
drummer Rafael Barata. Tasteful low-keyed work, supple textures.
The Ray Anderson-Marty Ehrlich Quartet: Hear You Say:
Live in Willisau (2009 , Intuition): With Brad Jones
on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. Anderson's trombone is always
a delight, as is Ehrlich's clarinet (and for that matter alto and
soprano sax), even when the two don't mix especially well. Breaks
down into a nasty bit of noise at one point, which may be a turn
off -- I'm uncertain on that myself. Otherwise, these are two
musicians I'm always happy to hear, doing about what I expect of
Jeff Antoniuk and the Jazz Update: Brotherhood
(2010, JAJU): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, b. 1965 in Edmonton, in
Canada; lived in Nigeria for a year; studied at UNT; lives in
Annapolis, MD. Second album. Quartet with Wade Beach on piano,
Tom Baldwin on bass, Tony Martucci on drums (including congas
and batá). Nice mainstream postbop with a little extra riddim.
Hugo Antunes: Roll Call (2009 , Clean Feed):
Guessing on the recording date, given only as "September 3" -- seems
inconceivably tight to be 2010, but if it was more than a year old
you'd think they'd think of noting the year. Portuguese bassist;
based in Brussels, Belgium. First album, as far as I can tell,
fronted by two tenor saxophonists -- Daniele Martini and Toine
Thys (who also plays soprano and bass clarinet), backed by two
drummers (Joăo Lobo and Mark Patrman). Lots of deep rumble and
fleeting reeds, remarkable when it works, which is more often than
Julian Argüelles Trio: Ground Rush (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1966 in England, ten albums
since 1996, close to 50 side credits. Trio with Michael Formanek
and Tom Rainey, same lineup as his 2006 album Partita.
Very solid trio work; impossible to fault although I don't get
the extra charge I expect to bring it up a level, maybe because
he's so sure of himself he makes it look easier than it is.
Ehud Asherie: Organic (2007 , Posi-Tone):
Isareli pianist, b. 1979, attended New School in 1997-98, studied
with Frank Hewitt, based in New York. Fourth or fifth album since
2007 -- also has a new one on Arbors, Welcome to New York,
which I didn't get. I think this is the only one where he plays
organ. Quartet with Peter Bernstein on guitar, Dmitry Baevsky on
sax, and Phil Stewart on drums. No bass player, which has been
the rule since Jimmy Smith invented the form, but Asherie doesn't
seem to have given it any consideration. He plays light and fleet,
which keeps him closely in tune to Bernstein. Baevsky has two
mainstream records I haven't heard. Doesn't make much of an
Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 ,
Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Haifa, Israel; family
moved to Minneapolis in 1977, and he's kicked around a fair amount
since then, including Paris and New York and a stretch studying
at Wesleyan under Anthony Braxton. Fourth album since 1999; has a
couple dozen side credits. Odd album, five musicians only loosely
connected, but they keep slipping into interesting juxtapositions,
so consistently one suspects some sort of plan -- although it
certainly he helps that the musicians are so strong individually:
Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Russ Lossing (piano), John Hébert (bass),
Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion).
Bobby Avey: A New Face (2009 , JayDell):
Young pianist, no b. date given but got his BA in 2007 and moved
to Brooklyn. First album under his own name, but previously
appeared in a duo with Dave Liebman, Vienna Dialogues,
which I didn't much care for. This is much better: half trio
where he leans hard on the keys, half with Liebman guesting,
also blowing hard.
Ab Baars: Time to Do My Lions (2008 , Wig):
Dutch saxophonist, b. 1955, has a dozen or more albums since 1989.
This one is solo: tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi. That will most
likely be enough to dissuade you, but as these things go, he comes
up with interesting patterns, and never gets too ugly to bear.
The Bad Plus: Never Stop (2010, E1 Entertainment):
Piano trio, debuted in 2000 as a semi-supergroup after bassist Reid
Anderson and pianist Ethan Iverson had knocked off several super
albums for Spain's Fresh Sound New Talent label. Third member is
drummer Dave King, whose Happy Apple albums started in 1997 and
have continued at least through 2007. First two Columbia albums
at least had the posture of a breakthrough arena act as opposed to
the chambers and clubs and cocktail bars most piano trios aim for,
and drove the point home with innovative covers of classic rock.
Since then, they've wavered and wandered (including a dud last one,
wonder if that has anything to do with why I'm not on the mailing
list?). In some ways this feels like a return to form, but all
originals -- if you're scoring at home: Anderson 5, King 3, Iverson
2 -- some muscling up and modulating the volume, some rollicking
out, some just schmoozy.
Sheryl Bailey: A New Promise (2008 , MCG
Jazz): Guitarist, b. 1966, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA; based in
New York; sixth album since 1993. Cites Wes Montgomery as an
inspiration, and seems to fit into his family, although we can
add Emily Remler to that list -- three Remler songs here,
including "East to Wes." Recorded in Pittsburgh with the
Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, co-directed by Mike Tomaro and
Steve Hawk. I imagine most musicians love the idea of having
a full big band backing them up. Helps here, even if it seems
a little extravagant.
Newman Taylor Baker Singin' Drums: Drum Suite Life
(2010, Innova): Drummer, b. 1943, looks like his first album although
he has side credits going back to 1978, especially with Billy Harper.
Solo drum project, which limits is appeal, but within those constraints
it is interesting and quite listenable. I puzzled a bit over one title,
"Andrew, Milford, & Rashied" -- Ali and Graves, of course, but, uh,
Cyrille, of course.
Lucian Ban & John Hébert: Enesco Re-Imagined
(2010, Sunnyside): A tribute to composer George Enescu (or Georges
Enesco in France, or George Enesco here), 1881-1955, from Romania,
also notable as a violinist and pianist. Ban is a pianist, b. 1969
in Romania; moved to New York in 1999 to study at New School. Played
on two Jazz Unit Sextet records 1998-99; since 2002 has a half dozen
or so records, mostly with baritone saxist Alex Harding. Hébert is
a bassist who invariably shows up on good records, although this is
one where the classical music strings (Albrecht Maurer, Mat Maneri)
try my patience, and the jazz horns (Ralph Alessi, Tony Malaby)
rarely break the surface.
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Llyria (2010, ECM): Swiss
pianist, plays jazztronica without the electronics, emphasizing
rhythm and shadings. Group includes Sha [Stefan Haslebacher]
on bass clarinet and alto sax, Björn Meyer on bass, Kaspar Rast
on drums, and Andi Pupato on percussion. Third ECM album, after
a half-dozen self-released albums where he worked out his format.
I like all of the albums, with Rea choice among the early
efforts and Stoa and Holon superb ECM albums, but
was slow getting into this one, the atmospherics clouding out
the rhythmic interest -- the exception is "Modul 4," which is
an oldie, way out of the current range (48-55). Still in play.
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Llyria (2010, ECM): Must have
been a typo on the promo, since the out-of-sequence "Modul 4" that
caught my ear is "Modul 47" here, still the lowest number and the
hottest track in a series that threatens to go ambient. The other
winner is "Modul 51" where Kaspar Rast goes for rock drama on the
drums. The least satisfying of his ECM albums, except during those
high points when comparisons are moot.
Al Basile: Soul Blue 7 (2009, Sweetspot): Cornet
player, blues singer, gave up theoretical physics for a slot in
Duke Robillard's Roomful of Blues band. Robillard produces and
plays guitar here, on Basile's seventh album since 2001. I count
eight musicians here, with two saxes, trombone, piano or organ.
Basile's a credible blues vocalist, too busy singing here to show
off much of his cornet. Robillard keeps the band swinging -- he's
been straddling blues and jazz effectively for a while now. Bonus
includes a couple of pictures -- one in the clear case back and
one in the booklet -- of someone's CD shelves: probably Basile's,
since the bottom shelf of one is wall-to-wall Louis Armstrong --
even a few discs I don't have (and I have a lot). Everything
else is blues, unless you want to quibble about the Fats Domino
Dave Bass Quartet: Gone (2008-09 , Dave Bass
Music): AMG lists four guys named Dave Bass: Pop/Rock 90s, Country
90s-00s, Pop/Rock 70s-80s, Religious 90s. None of those seem right
here. Pianist, b. 1950 in Cincinnati, moved to Boston and studied
with George Russell and Margaret Chaloff; moved on to San Francisco;
wound up in law school at UCLA, became a lawyer in 1992, advancing
to California Deputy Attorney General for civil rights enforcement.
This looks like his first record, reuniting with some of his San
Francisco crew: drummer Babatunde Lea, bassist Gary Brown, and tenor
saxophonist Ernie Watts. Also features Mary Stallings singing two
songs. Nothing earthshaking, but he's pretty sharp for a debut-album
pianist, and it's always a delight to hear Watts, or for that matter
Stallings in front of a good band.
Doug Beavers 9: Two Shades of Nude (2007 ,
Origin): Trombonist, full name Doug Beavers Rovira, favors large
groups, his previous Jazz, Baby! even larger than the
nonet here. Has a lot of fire power here -- Kenny Rampton and
Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, Marc Momaas and Jon Irabagon on tenor
sax -- which shorts the trombone without really blowing out of
the postbop formulary.
Richie Beirach/Dave Liebman: Quest for Freedom
(2009 , Sunnyside): Pianist Beirach and saxophonist Liebman
(strictly soprano and alto flute this time) have been playing
together as far back as Drum Ode in 1974, and called their
early 1980s configuration Quest, a name that also pops up on some
of their recent work -- haven't heard them, but two more 2010
Quest releases are Re-Dial: Live in Hamburg (Outnote) and
Searching for the New Sound of Be-Bop (Storyville). This
one is amped up by Frankfurt Radio Bigband, with Jim McNeely doing
the arrangements. I found this rough and brash and rather annoying
at first, then had to admit that there is some sharp playing here,
with the pianist getting a good airing.
David Bixler & Arturo O'Farrill: The Auction Project
(2010, Zoho): Alto saxophonist, b. 1964 in Wisconsin, based in New
York; fourth album since 2000; side credits include another album
with O'Farrill, son of Cuban bandleader/arranger Chico O'Farrill,
a competent but often overrated practitioner of the family trade.
The point of the project is to do something Afro-Celtic, mostly
picking up Irish (or Scottish) trad tunes and rattling them around
radical Afro-Cuban time changes -- Vince Cherico (drums) and Roland
Guerrero (percussion) handle those chores along with the pianist.
Bixler's wife, Heather Martin Bixler, plays violin, supporting the
straight Celtic parts, while Bixler plays over and above. Makes for
some rather strange juxtapositions, but offers a few surprises.
The Blasting Concept (2001-07 , Smalltown
Superjazz): A sampler from a small Norwegian label, one of the
few that does what label samplers should do: open your ears to
one unexpected pleasure after another, never dwelling too long
in one spot, moving through a range of pieces that somehow add
up in the end. All the more remarkable given that the subtitle,
A Compilation of Avant-Garde, Free Jazz, Noise and Psychedelia
is accurate. The free jazz is mostly anchored by drummer Paal
Nilssen-Love with one or more hard-blowing saxophonists -- Mats
Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, and/or Joe McPhee.
The saxes make plenty of noise, but nothing like Lasse Marhaug's
electronics -- his "Alarmed and Distressed Duckling" would wear
you down if it went on much longer but is amazing in a small
dose -- and Sonic Youth guitarists Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke
add their own feedback. Vandermark's clarinet-piano-bass trio,
Free Fall, offers a soft but far from simple respite. Psychedelia
is in the ear of the behearer, but Massimo Pupillo's bass line
drives the Original Silence into ecstasy. I've heard most of these
albums, including the Thing's box set, but they all run on. And
to think, I've been using this as a paperweight for over a year
now, simply because it's heavy, and because label samplers suck.
BLOB: Earphonious Swamphony (2010, Innova):
Group, consisting of John Lindberg on bass, Ted Orr on guitar,
and Harvey Sorgen on drums. I'm least familiar with Orr, who
is also an audio engineer and plays Axon MIDI guitar as well
as electric. Don't have an acronym definition of BLOB, so they
may just be fond of caps -- certainly fits their penchant for
loud noise. Fifth album since 2006, with a couple more listed
as upcoming. This one bills Ralph Carney as a special guest,
and he adds a lot of resonance in the deep end, especially
when playing bass sax, bass trombone, and tuba -- clarinets
and flute are his other credits. Mostly noise, but they make
something out of it, and the lumbering rumble is fascinating
in its own right.
Luis Bonilla: Twilight (2010, Planet Arts/Now
Jazz Consortium): Trombone player, b. 1965 in Los Angeles, of
Costa Rican descent. Fifth album since 1991; has a lot of side
credits, mostly in Latin bands starting with Larry Harlow, but
also with Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Gerald Wilson, Dave Douglas.
Group includes Ivan Renta on tenor sax, Bruce Barth on piano
and organ, Andy McKee on bass, and John Riley on drums and
percussion, with a guest French horn on one track. Most of
the horn leads are trombone, which give this a rough surface
on top of fairly powerful grooves.
Geof Bradfield: African Flowers (2009 , Origin):
Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet, and flute here), born in
Houston, studied at DePaul in Chicago, moved to Brooklyn 1994-97,
back to Chicago, taught at Washington State three years; in Chicago
since 2003. First noticed him playing in Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls.
Third album, with Victor Garcia (trumpet), Jeff Parker (guitar),
Ryan Cohan (piano), Clark Sommers (bass), George Fludas drums).
Postbop, strong flow, a little fancy and cluttered.
Anthony Braxton: 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003
(2003 , Leo, 4CD): This is actually the third 4-CD box
from Braxton's 2003 standards tour, so it should be surplus,
but like its predecessors it's just marvelous. Braxton haters
won't have a clue in a blindfold test, and fans may have some
trouble too -- aside from one improv where he's on home ground,
he reminds me of Sonny Stitt more than anyone else, with more
range and even faster, or Bird without the dank sound, or
McLean without the weird bite, but where all those guys had
to sweat to put out, Braxton has never seemed more relaxed
or laid back. (And no one else would pick up a sopranino sax
and kick out an utterly distinctive "The Girl From Ipanema.")
With guitarist Kevin O'Neil getting a lot of room to stretch,
and Andy Eulau on bass and Kevin Norton on percussion. Main
thing that holds me back from grading it higher is that I
haven't spent as much time with it as A records usually take.
But you can dive in anywhere and find something wonderful.
Federico Britos: Voyage (2010, Sunnyside):
Violinist, originally from Uruguay, now based in Miami; AMG only
lists two albums since 2002, a couple dozen credits since 1992,
but he's evidently been around a lot longer -- back cover inset
has rave quotes about Britos dating from 1955-60 (by Josephine
Baker, Jascha Heifetz, Astor Piazzolla, Nat "King" Cole, and
Vinicius de Moraes; also one from Dizzy Gillespie dated 1982).
No recording dates here, but the sites and lineups jump all
over, and the long list of guests include at least one dead
guy (legendary Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez, who passed
in 2008). Numerous guests come and go: five pianists (best
known: Kenny Barron, Michel Camilo), four guitarist (Bucky
Pizzarelli, Tomatito), six bassists (Eddie Gomez, Cachao),
four drummers (Ignacio Berroa, Francisco Mela), percussion;
two cuts have extra strings; no horns anywhere. Some things
sound like Grappelli, some are harder to place. Especially
nice is "Micro Suite Cubana" with its bubbling percussion.
George Brooks Summit: Spirit and Spice (2010,
Earth Brother Music): Saxophonist, picture shows him playing
tenor but credit is plural, and he has alto and soprano credits
elsewhere (e.g., with John McLaughlin; AMG also gives him composer
credits going back to Bessie Smith, but I think those can be
discounted). AMG lists four albums since 1996, not counting
this one. His main interest is in Indo-Jazz fusion, the basis
of his 2002 album Summit -- another album title recycled
into a group name -- and the new Raga Bop Trio (with
drummer Steve Smith and guitarist Prasanna, with Smith listed
first). This is a quartet with Fareed Haque on guitar, Kai
Eckhardt on bass, and Smith on drums, supplmentet by eight
mostly-Indian guests -- Zakir Hussain (tabla), Nildari Kumar
(sitar), Kala Ramnath (violin), Ronu Majumdar (bansuri),
Swapan Chaudhuri (tabla), Sridar Parthasarathy (mrdangam,
ghatam, kanjira, vocals). Moves smoothly through the jungle,
with a sweet scent I don't find especially appealing.
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet + 1: 3 Nights in Oslo
(2009 , Smalltown Superjazz, 5CD): Only two discs feature the
whole loud and boisterous group. I've gotten to where I enjoy the
jolt of energy they provide, but anyone with reservations about free
jazz noise will want to stay clear. The front line is the reed section:
Brötzmann (tarogato, clarinet, tenor and alto sax), Ken Vandermark
(clarinet, tenor sax), Mats Gustafsson (alto flutophone, baritone sax),
and Joe McPhee (tenor sax, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn). The brass is
pure brawn, with two trombones (Jeb Bishop and Johannes Bauer) and
Per Ĺke Holmlander on tuba and cimbasso. Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello
and electronics spruce up Kent Kessler's bull fiddle. And the two
drummers, Michael Zerang and Paal Nilssen-Love, play with the band.
The middle three discs are slightly less intense as they spotlight
subsets of the group: Gustafsson/Brötzmann/Vandermark (aka Sonore),
Zerang/Nilssen-Love, Bauer/Holmlander, McPhee/Vandermark,
Bishop/Paal-Nilssen, McPhee/Londberg-Holm/Zerang (Survival Unit
III), McPhee/Holmlander/Bauer/Bishop (Trombone Choir).
Alex Brown: Pianist (2009 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1987, studied at New England Conservatory, based
in Boston. First album. Cover says "Paquito D'Rivera presents";
D'Rivera plays alto sax on two cuts, clarinet on one more, as
the album builds on a piano trio base -- Vivek Patel plays
flugelhorn on four tracks, Warren Wolf marimba on two, Pedro
Martinez percussion on four and vocals on one. Patel has a
few good moments, but in general the extras are not all that
substantial or interesting. The trio work shows some promise,
but Brown hasn't broken out of the pack yet.
Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra: India & Africa:
A Tribute to John Coltrane (2009 , Water Baby): Drummer,
mother Japanese, father African-American with a bit of Choctaw, came
up on the idea of organizing a big band of Asian-American musicians --
an early fruit was Big Bands Behind Barbed Wire, inspired by
Japanese-American bands who played in WWII concentration camps. His
records incorporate various bits of Asian music, but they're also
masterful exercises in big band arranging -- as was proven, for
instance, in Brown's previous Monk's Moods. This one is
organized in two sets, mostly using Coltrane's compositions, in
particular "India" and "Africa." The India set picks up more Indian
music than Coltrane ever knew, including a duet between Steve Oda's
sarod and Dana Pandey's tabla. The Africa set is less exotic, and
ends with a slice of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" -- a piece
Coltrane used to play. (Afro Blue Impressions is one of
Coltrane's better live albums.) The percussion is notable, and
the horn solos and section work are muscular and daring.
Greg Burk and Vicente Lebron: Unduality (2010,
Accurate): Burk is a pianist, b. 1969, who has done consistently
interesting work as far as I've followed it -- Many Worlds
(482 Music) was a recent HM. Lebron is older, a conga player from
the Dominican Republic, moved to New York in 1971 and on to Boston
in 1974, where he plays with Either/Orchestra. The record here is
piano-percussion duos, with 13 of 23 cuts named "Unduality" with
a number and a "Bach" pun -- "Bach at You," "Bach and Forth,"
"Bach to the Future," "Bachlava," etc. While the percussion is
nice enough, the rest of it sounds like Bach to me. Especially
"Vox Bach," where they lose the instruments.
John Burnett Orchestra/Buddy DeFranco: Down for Double
(2000-10 , Delmark): Standard swing-era big band -- four trumpets,
four trombones, five reeds, piano, bass, drums. Songs dedicated to
Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa,
Slide Hampton, and (4 of 12) Count Basie. Third album since 2000,
when Burnett featured clarinetist Buddy DeFranco on Swingin' in
the Windy City. Also headlines DeFranco here, but only on 3 cuts
dating from the 2000 sessions. We also get three cuts from 2005, and
six from 2010, all live. Loud and brassy.
Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (2008 , High Note):
Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola -- looks like I'm supposed to use the
fancy logo for the last two words. Born 1931, cut his first record in
1956 and has rarely missed a year since, one of the few survivors of
the bumper crop of bop-oriented guitarists that emerged in the 1950s.
(Jim Hall is the only other one I can think of who's still active.)
Has a couple of exceptional records -- Guitar Forms (1964-65),
Ellington Is Forever (1975, Vol. 1 much better than Vol. 2) --
and a lot of pretty nice ones. I flagged his 75th Birthday Bash
Live! (2006) as a dud, but this one is a delight, with Tivon
Pennicott blowing some warm sax, Benny Green on the ivories, the
great Peter Washington humming along on bass, and Clayton Cameron
on drums. In this company, Burrell doesn't have to offer much more
than tasty, which is just his thing.
Johnny Butler: Solo (2009 , Johnny Butler Jazz):
Saxophonist, from Seattle, based in Brooklyn, first album. Also
plays in an avant-rock/classical chamber group called Scurvy, and
has some sort of connection to Tune-Yards. Album here consists of
four fairly short pieces built using an Echoplex looper -- he
makes a big deal in the album notes about doing this with no
overdubs, but I don't really get the distinction, or what he's
trying to do. Short (24:21), can be tedious but also has some
Taylor Ho Bynum/Tomas Fujiwara: Stepwise (2010, Not Two):
Cornet-drums duo. Bynum runs through thin, scratchy free jazz figures,
and Fujiwara taps along, not adding a great deal. The drummer has a
couple albums I haven't heard, and Bynum's label is off limits to me,
which is kind of annoying, although he does show up often enough to
keep me intrigued.
Hadley Caliman/Pete Christlieb: Reunion (2009
, Origin): Two tenor saxophonists. Caliman, b. 1932, had
a few albums in the 1970s, then vanished (at least as a leader)
until Origin picked him up in 2008. He titled his comeback album
Gratitude and its follow-up Straight Ahead, and
that's about all you need to know about him. Christlieb is a
bit younger, b. 1945, evidently played some with Caliman in the
late 1960s. He has a slightly more continuous career, but only
one record between 1983-98, and only one other album post-2000.
He is probably best known for a pair of duo albums with Warne
Marsh in 1978 -- at least that's where I know him from -- which,
of course, don't quite compete with Marsh's Lee Konitz duos.
Presumably Caliman's the one who wants to swing and Christlieb's
the one who's into more intricate postbop. Pretty enjoyable mix
either way. With label stalwarts Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardorf,
and John Bishop.
Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (2009 ,
Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1964 in Minneapolis; fourteenth album
since 1999 according to AMG, but they really mean 1992, and
they've only rated three, and haven't bothered with a bio.
So while I was tempted to say that he's one of those guys
with a sterling rep that I haven't managed to appreciate,
probably because I just don't seem to hear piano trios all
that clearly -- Walter Norris, Harold Danko, Marc Copland
are other names that pop into my head -- he probably isn't
well enough known for that. (And actually I did love his
2005 album Shine Ball, but that was goosed up with
prepared piano, which I've been a sucker for ever since
I first heard David Tudor playing John Cage.) This is a
trio, with Drew Gress on piano and Bill Stewart on drums --
names that could someday rival Peacock-De Johnette or (in
my mind) Johnson-Baron. Mostly Clifford Brown songs, like
the title track, plus three from Richie Powell, one each
from Duke Jordan and Victor Young, and, of course, Benny
Golson's "I Remember Clifford." Interesting idea I don't
understand well enough, and don't feel like digging into
right now. Will play it again.
Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (2009 ,
Pirouet): Good mainstream pianist, not as well known as he
should be, but aside from his tricked up Shine Ball
I've found him real hard to latch onto. Played this promising
album two more times and it just sort of slipped by me.
Hugo Carvalhais: Nebulosa (2009 , Clean Feed):
Portuguese bassist, leads a trio with Gabriel Pinto on piano/synth
and Mario Costa on drums. First album as far as I can tell. Hard to
say what they're really up to, since the four cuts where they play
alone offer several different looks -- rumbling piano, cheezy synth,
deference to the bassist. But the main reason you can't sort them
out is that Tim Berne drops in on six pieces -- the five parts of
the title track plus "Intro" -- and you notice him a lot.
Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (1972
, Porter): Philadelphia group, recorded four albums for Joe
Fields 1972-75, three of those on Muse and a fourth -- actually
the eponymous first album -- on Cobblestone, a Buddah subsidiary
Fields also ran. Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label picked up the catalogue
in 1996 and released all four albums on two CDs as The Funkiest
Band You Never Heard. I'm a little unclear on details, but
it looks like Porter is doing the same trick only on two separate
CDs. Vol. 1 packs the two 1972 albums, Catalyst and
Perception. The group's mainstays were Odean Pope (tenor
sax, flute, oboe), Eddie Green (mostly electric piano), and Sherman
Ferguson (drums), with Al Jackson playing bass on the first album
and Tyrone Baker on the second -- maybe some extras here and there.
Green's electric piano reminds me more of Jimmy Smith's organ than
of the era's Hancock-Corea-Zawinul fashion, the main advance a
slight uptick in funk quotient. Pope isn't quite the powerhouse
he became, but you can tell he's been listening to Ayler and
Coltrane without forgetting his roots in gutbucket blues.
Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 (1974-75
, Porter): Two more Muse albums, Unity from 1974, and
A Tear and a Smile from 1975. The former is probably the funk
peak, with saxophonist Odean Pope moving a bit ahead of electric
pianist Eddie Green. Things fall apart on the second album: "The
Demon, Pt. 1" crosses over into irritating, I think with electric
guitar although I don't have the credits (Charles Ellerbe?), then
after "Pt. 2" the title track goes into an atmospheric flute
serenade. Then strings and vocals intrude into what until then
was one of the more impressive funk-jazz quartets of the period.
Charito Meets Michel Legrand: Watch What Happens
(2008 , CT Music): Wikipedia: "Charito was the Empress consort
of Jovian, Roman Emperor." OK, let's try again. Singer. B. June 15,
no year given, probably in the Philippines; MySpace bases her in New
York, but her own website starts: "Distinctively a most prominent
jazz vocalist in Japan with multi-awarded albums recorded and released
internationally" -- website also available in Japanese. Has seven
albums since 1991 (AMG) or thirteen since 1990 (own website), the
latest Heal the World: Charito Sings Michael Jackson. No
credits -- not a big problem with Legrand's generally anonymous
orchestra, but I'd like to know who to blame for the duets (possibly
Legrand). She has a nice voice, good diction, takes one song in
French, the others in impeccable English. Looked pretty scruffy
on her first album cover; better than ever twenty years later, so
she must be doing something right.
Evan Christopher: The Remembering Song (2009 ,
Arbors): Clarinetist, b. 1974, came up through trad jazz groups
although he writes most of his own material. Covers "Way Down Yonder
in New Orleans," "My Home Is in a Souther Town," and "Dear Old
Southland." Uses two guitarists (Bucky Pizzarelli and James Chirillo)
and bass (Greg Cohen). Often lovely, but not much excitement.
Roberto Cipelli/Paolo Fresu/Philippe Garcia/Gianmaria
Testa/Attilio Zanchi: F. ŕ Léo (2007 , Justin
Time): Tribute to French chansonnier Léo Ferré (1916-93); not
sure how to parse the title, a large abbreviated initial and
a small dedication, followed even smaller by "progetto di
roberto cipelli." The artists are listed alphabetically.
Pianist Cipelli has a couple previous albums dating back to
1988, but most of his credits are on albums led by trumpeter
Fresu. Testa sings Ferré's French texts, with Zanchi on bass
and Garcia on drums; Garcia also has a couple vocal credits,
and Garcia and Testa have one each on guitar (chitarra). The
vocals are appropriately smoky, the trumpet poignant, and
Cipelli adds connective tissue between the songs. Recording
date not given, but AMG lists two previous editions, one in
2007 on Bonsaď, one in 2008 on Radiofandango -- labels I've
never heard of otherwise.
Jay Clayton: In and Out of Love (2007 ,
Sunnyside): Singer, b. 1941 in Youngstown, OH, originally Judith
Colantone; started cutting records around 1980 and has, well: AMG
lists 13, her website lists 19, Wikipedia says more than 40 but
only lists 10. Has tended to work in avant-garde circles, with a
lot of scat and sonic whatever, or at least that's my impression --
can't say as I've ever gotten a good read on her. This is fairly
conventional and understated, with just guitar (Jack Wilkins) and
bass (Jay Anderson), mostly working standards like "How Deep Is
the Ocean" and "I Hear a Rhapsody."
Nels Cline: Dirty Baby (2010, Cryptogramophone, 2CD):
Big package contains two art booklets, a total of 66 images of paintings
by Ed Ruscha. The two discs of music were commissioned by David Breskin
for some sort of "visionary recontextualization" of the paintings -- I'm
pretty unclear on just how that works. One set of paintings are abstract,
remind me of semaphores or morse code; the other look like blurry photos,
but I can't say I spent much time with them. First CD is the title
piece, "Dirty Baby," in six parts. Nine musicians are credited, but
it's mostly Cline's guitar, clear and coherent, one of the finest
extended pieces I've heard him do. The other CD, "Side B," is a mess,
broken into 33 short fragments, only two topping three minutes, four
more breaking two. Similar mob of musicians, with only Devin Hoff and
Scott Amendola joining on both discs. Soundtrack types, probably make
more sense in the intended context, especially the ones that give off
Ryan Cohan: Another Look (2010, Motéma): Pianist,
b. 1971, based in Chicago, third album since 2001. Appeared recently
on saxophonist Geof Bradfield's album, who returns the favor here,
impressively when he is featured, but not often. Joe Locke (vibes)
makes a big splash, complementing the piano and adding a lot of
flashy depth. Also here: Lorin Cohen (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums),
and Steve Kroon (percussion).
Chris Colangelo: Elaine's Song (2010, C Note):
Bassist, not much bio to go on, has a couple of previous albums and
a dozen-plus side credits since 1998. Basically a piano trio with
an extra horn (or two) on 7 of 9 tracks -- mostly tenor sax, with
Bob Sheppard on 3 and Benn Clatworthy on 2. Sheppard also plays
soprano sax on one, Clatworthy flute on one, and Zane Musa's alto
sax joins Clatworthy tenor on one dedicated to Kenny Garrett. The
pianist is John Beasley, playing his role admirably but the dominant
tone is the sax.
Scott Colley: Empire (2009 , CAM Jazz):
Bassist, b. 1963, eight albums since 1998, three pages of credits
at AMG -- throwing out the redundancies, various artist comps,
composer-only credits, etc., comes to about 150 records since
1986, virtually all mainstream, lot of good saxophonists --
Potter, McCaslin, Margitza, Binney. Quintet here, prominent
names: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Brian Blade (drums), Bill Frisell
(guitar), Craig Taborn (piano). Feels like one of Frisell's
Americana albums, only a little lead-footed -- empires do get
to be cumbersome. Alessi is especially good throughout, but by
now you expect as much.
Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My
Silent House (2008 , ECM): Another record that
should be out by now but hasn't arrived: one that I've been
anxious to get to, as Crispell is one of the most interesting
pianist working today, and Rothenberg -- oops, I must have
been thinking about Ned. David Rothenberg also plays clarinet
and bass clarinet, has ten albums I haven't heard since 1992,
describes himself as a "philosopher-naturalist," with many of
his records tuned into the sounds of nature -- Why Birds
Sing (also a book title), Whale Music, etc. This
is quiet and thoughtful; could perhaps use some more thought
on my part.
Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My
Silent House (2008 , ECM): I got confused early on
here, first confusing David Rothenberg with Ned Rothenberg and
possibly others my brain has incoherently muddled together, but
also thinking that Crispell should be the main focus. She plays
piano on about half of the cuts, soundboard and percussion on
the rest -- for all intents and purposes, her piano is one of
many percussion options, all revolving around Rothenberg's bass
clarinet and clarinet. Rothenberg has ten albums since 1992,
something to research further some time. He describes himself
as a "philosopher-naturalist" and writes about Why Birds
Sing. This is spare but deep, mostly slow and careful but
never mushy. Crispell, as I said, takes on the percussionist
role, which is not to denigrate her near-perfect piano.
Stephan Crump/James Carney: Echo Run Pry (2008
, Clean Feed): A while back I got a package of 6-7 Clean
Feed releases from Portugal; opened them up and when I noticed
this one, I stopped, thought about what a remarkable job Pedro
Costa does with his label. In particular, I recalled Costa's
comment back when I wrote that mega-article on jazz labels: that
he doesn't have any special tastes, but just releases whatever
strikes his fancy. That's mostly included various circles of
well-connected avant-gardists, plus a wider range of Portuguese
artists. I've never really thought of Crump (bass) or Carney
(piano) as avant-garde, although they've been doing interesting
and rather daring postbop, scoring HMs or better, so I was
surprised to see them pop up together, and here. The record
has the same basic flaw of all duos: limited pallette with no
one extra to smooth the flow. But Carney holds back enough to
work with the bass instead of runnign roughshod over it, and
Crump's leads are always interesting.
Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon: Mystic Maze (2008
, Jazzwerkstatt): Bassist, b. 1961 in New York, studied under
La Monte Young. Half-dozen records as a leader, plus a couple dozen
side credits including Anthony Braxton and Gebhard Ullmann. With
Antonis Anissegos (keyboards), Ullman (tenor & soprano sax,
bass clarinet), Christian Weidner (alto sax), and Eric Schaefer
(drums). Music is very slippery, sliding from spot to spot, never
getting in the way of the narration, which includes stories about
Béla Bartok and painless dentistry.
Ted Daniel Quintet: Tapestry (1974 ,
Porter): Trumpet player, may actually have played more flugelhorn
(as he does here), b. 1943, cut several albums in the 1970s, and
shows up in credits every now and then (occasionally as Teddy
Daniel or Ted Daniels) -- I was trying to figure out where I
recalled the name from, most likely Billy Bang's Vietnam:
The Aftermath and Vietnam: Reflections, but he's been
on other albums I'm familiar with -- Sonny Sharrock, Clifford
Thornton, Andrew Cyrille, Henry Threadgill, Defunkt,
Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions. He has
the only horn here, playing rough over the thick -- sometimes
luxuriant, sometimes ominous -- jungle concocted by Richard
Daniel's electric piano and Khan Jamal's vibes, with Tim Ingles
on bass and Jerome Cooper on drums.
Decoy & Joe McPhee: Oto (2009 , Bo Weavil):
Decoy is an organ trio of sorts, with Alexander Hawkins on the B3,
John Edwards on bass, and Steve Noble on drums. The three players
otherwise show up more often in avant contexts -- I noticed Hawkins
recently playing piano in Convergence Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum
and Harris Eisenstadt. McPhee has been an uncompromising free tenor
saxophonist for over forty years, so it's no surprise that he takes
every groove and grind the trio lays out for him and rips them to
Joey DeFrancesco: Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of
Michael Jackson (2010, High Note): Fluffs up his organ
trio -- Paul Bollenback on guitar, Byron Landham on drums --
to approximate studio dynamics on records that are evidently
so earnestly loved he doesn't want to mess with them. Results
trip over themselves. The sound effects on "Thriller" are
worthless, and Joey's vocals aren't much better.
Eli Degibri: Israeli Song (2009 , Anzic):
Tenor/soprano saxophonist, from Israel, studied at Berklee and
New England Conservatory, based in New York City. Fifth album
since 2004. Fronts a very eminent quartet: Brad Mehldau on piano,
Ron Carter on bass, and Al Foster on drums. Each contributes a
song; other covers are "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Bebop,"
with Degibri writing 6 of 11. All mainstream jazz, nothing that
specifically marks this as Israeli or Middle Eastern -- just
exquisite tenor sax supported by supremely confident pros.
Denise Donatelli: When Lights Are Low (2010, Savant):
Singer, from Allentown, PA; based in Los Angeles. Third album since
2005. Striking voice. No original songs, but even the Rodgers &
Hart and Styne & Cahn aren't common standards, and the only one
from a rock-based singer-songwriter is by Sting, who hardly counts.
Geoffrey Keezer plays piano and did most of the arranging, mostly
just piano-guitar-bass-drums, two cuts with some strings, a couple
with a guest horn -- Ingrid Jensen's flugelhorn, Ron Blake's soprano
sax, Phil O'Connor's bass clarinet, nothing dominant. Played twice
while somewhat distracted, both times losing me midway.
Paquito D'Rivera: Tango Jazz: Live at Jazz at Lincoln
Center (2010, Sunnyside): Cuban clarinet/also sax player,
b. 1948, studied at Havana Conservatory of Music, co-founded
Orchestra Cubana de Musica Moderna, and later Irakere, before
skipping over the the US in 1980, where has since built up a
substantial discography. Opens the liner notes with a rant about
"Che Guevara and his henchmen" which even if it's true -- and
I don't know one way or the other -- reminds me how convenient
America is for right-wing Cubans and how much political damage
they've done since being welcomed here so generously (unlike
refugees from far more murderous right-wing regimes like El
Salvador in the 1980s, or Haiti any time). Still, the gist of
D'Rivera's notes is that he loves the tango music that Guevara
evidently forsook, and he at least proves his enthusiasm in
the grooves. The critical ingredient, not surprisingly, is
the Pablo Aslan Ensemble, with Michael Zisman (and on one
track Raul Jaurena) on bandoneón, Aslan on bass, and Daniel
Piazzolla on drums. Aslan's own tango records have tended to
be elegant updates -- Avantango kicked off the series,
and Buenos Aires Tango Standards is even better -- but
the band gets hot and rowdy here, especially when Gustavo
Bergalli cuts loose on trumpet.
Paquito D'Rivera: Panamericana Suite (2010,
MCG Jazz): Large group, twelve musicians and a singer but nothing
near a big band -- Diego Urcola is the brass, D'Rivera the reed
section, unless you want to count cellist Dana Leong's secondary
trombone. Instead, you get vibes/marimba (Dave Samuels), steel
pans (Andy Narell), harp (Edmar Castaneda), bandoneon (Hector
del Curto), piano (Alon Yavnai), bass (Oscar Stagnero), and lots
of percussion. The title cut runs 11:16, not much more than the
other pieces, which include a cover of "Con Alma." The pans and
vibes are often remarkable, and D'Rivera's clarinet is in peak
form. Would rate higher but for the two vocals by soprano Brenda
Feliciano, way too operatic for my taste.
Jacob Duncan/John Goldsby/Jason Tiemann: The Innkeeper's
Gun (2009 , Bass Lion Music): Sax trio, with Duncan
on alto, Goldsby double bass, Tiemann drums. Recorded in Germany
(Cologne as the credits put it, or Köln as it's better known here).
Duncan's MySpace page bases him in "Hills of Kentucky," but other
evidence suggests Louisville, also for Tiemann. Goldsby was born
in Louisville, but moved to New York in 1980 and on to Köln in
1994, where he plays in the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Big Band. He
also wrote 3 of 8 songs, with Duncan adding 4; the remainder isn't
a standard I recognize. Narrow postbop, the sax a little thin,
but it sustains interest and closes strong with riff-based vamps
like Goldsby's "Juan in the Basement."
Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma): Cuban
pianist, b. 1953 in Havana, moved to Toronto in 1995. Cut three
records for Justin Time in late 1990s, four now for Alma. Haven't
heard any before this one, but Killer Tumbao is quite a
title. Piano trio, with Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso
on drums. Jumps right at you, and the percussion is pretty Cuban
for my ears.
Peggy Duquesnel: Summertime Lullaby (2009
, Joyspring Music): Pianist-vocalist, writes some (4
of 11 "jazz standards and love songs" here). Seventh album
since 2003. Evidently based in southern California ("served
as stadium keyboardist for the Anaheim Angels baseball team").
Band includes guitar, bass, and drums, but seems to vanish
mid-album. Has some charm as a singer, and her instrumental
(solo) takes of "Satin Doll" and "Take the 'A' Train" sparkle,
but the lullaby/love song angle doesn't do much (nor does her
"Mack the Knife," which doesn't exactly fit any of these
Marty Ehrlich: Fables (2010, Tzadik): A collaboration
with Klezmer Conservatory Band directory Hankus Netsky -- not clear
whether this should be co-credited, as some sources do, but most just
list Ehrlich. Also only found one source for credits: Ehrlich (clarinet,
bass clarinet, flute, alto sax, soprano sax), Marcus Rojas (tuba),
Jerome Harris (acoustic bass guitar), Netsky (piano, accordion).
That's about what I hear, although Ehrlich plays the clarinets much
more than the saxes. Mostly klezmer, no idea how vintage; starts and
ends strong, the latter's tuba-accordion oom-pah a hoot.
Either/Orchestra: Mood Music for Time Travellers
(2007-10 , Accurate): Russ Gershon's near-big band, a fixture
in Boston since 1986, back for their tenth album -- only the second
since 2003. They've picked up some African beats, and keep piling
on the layers like a postmodern Ellington.
Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio Featuring Billy Bang: Big
M: A Tribute to Malachi Favors (2004 , Delmark):
Never got this from Delmark, which now seems like a big mistake
(although I gather it was originally packaged with a DVD). The
late Art Ensemble of Chicago bassist (d. 2004) was also a founding
pillar of El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, capably replaced here by Yosen
Ben Israel. Ari Brown is strong on tenor sax and switches to piano
on a couple of cuts, surprisingly engaging. El'Zabar's percussion
is savvy, and his vocal isn't dreadful. Bang doesn't blow everyone
else away, but his edge adds to everything he touches.
Ellery Eskelin/Gerry Hemingway: Inbetween Spaces
(2008 , Auricle): One of three new albums featuring drummer Gerry
Hemingway in duets -- the obvious one to play first, especially
when you're approaching year-end-list deadlines. The tenor sax
seems a little subdued at first (and I've had to crank this up
some to draw him out), but this is typical of Eskelin's patient,
edgy focus. What's distinctive here is the percussion, how tuned
in it is but also cleverly Hemingway expands the circle.
Exploding Star Orchestra: Stars Have Shapes
(2010, Delmark): Rob Mazurek big group, not really a big band
given no sense of sections: one cornet (Mazurek), one trombone
(Jeb Bishop), three reeds (Matt Bauder on clarinet and tenor sax,
Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Greg Ward on alto sax) plus flute
(Nicole Mitchell), double up on bass (Matthew Lux and Josh Abrams)
and drums (John Herndon and Mike Reed, plus Carrie Biolo percussion);
also piano (Jeff Kowalkowski), vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), "word
rocker" (Damon Locks), and various "electro-acoustic constructions"
(Mazurek's main interest -- "rain from the Brazilian Amazon, insects
at the turn of an eclipse, the hammering overdrive of bicycles in
Copenhagen, stacked muted cornets run through various filters drones
built from electric eels and piano feedback, hi-frequency sinuous
lines from tone generators, pitched bass guitars, and other prepared
instruments"). Dedicated "in memory of Bill Dixon and Fred Anderson,"
who've livened up previous group albums, something missing here.
Played it three times and am still not sure what I think.
Eric Felten: Seize the Night (2007 , Melotone):
Trombonist lately turned vocalist, b. 1964, cut a couple albums for
Soul Note in the early 1990s, then not much until he emerged as a
crooner on Eric Felten Meets the Dek-tette in 2005. Wrote six
of eleven songs, none up to "Dancing in the Dark" or "Blue Skies"
but they hold up well enough. Band should be superb -- Kenny Barron,
Dennis Irwin, Jimmy Cobb, and Don Braden -- but neither they nor the
singer break out of the straight-laced propriety characterized by,
for instance, the conservative black-and-white cover art.
Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements: Dreams From a
Clown Car (2008 , Clean Feed): Bassist, a guy who
has an uncanny knack of showing up on good records (John Hébert
is another one), finally turns in one of his own. Two sax quartet,
with Michaël Attias on baritone and alto, Tony Malaby on tenor
and soprano, with Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. The two horns
work in tight patterns -- not a lot of freewheeling here, but
the loopy melodies and vibrant textures are engaging.
Jean-Marc Foltz/Matt Turner/Bill Carrothers: To the Moon
(2008 , Ayler): Foltz's name above title, the others (better known)
below, all three on spine. French clarinetist, had a duo album on Clean
Feed with Bruno Chevillon back in 2005; not much more to go on. Turner
plays cello; has at least nine albums since 1992, more than two dozen
side credits, although I hadn't noticed him before he sent this in.
Carrothers is a well known, highly regarded pianist. The instrumental
mix suggests this is chamber jazz, and it is very pretty with an
intriguing mix of details as the individuals make their marks.
Fond of Tigers: Continent & Western (2010,
Drip Audio): Vancouver group, guitarist-vocalist Stephen Lyons
is probably the main mover of the septet, with JP Carter (trumpet)
and Jesse Zubot (violin) names I recognize from elsewhere, plus
piano, bass, two drummers, a guest vocal from Sandro Perri and
a guest blast of noise from Mats Gustafsson. AMG files them under
rock, or avant-garde, or something experimental in between. I've
played this twice and know less than I thought I knew when I
started -- their previous (second) album caught my interest,
but this has a strange mix of overbearing soundtrack and light
pop, and while my grade is probably not where it'd be after 4-5
more plays, I don't see any reason to really figure this out.
Michael Formanek: The Rub and Spare Change (2009
, ECM): Bassist, b. 1958 in San Francisco; AMG lists eight
albums; his own website lists 5 "as a leader," 6 "as a co-leader,"
but doesn't include this one (or anything else since 2006; AMG's
most recent listing is from 1997, although AMG has 9 more recent
side credits). Quartet with Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn
(piaino, not electric), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Formanek has
played with Berne before, e.g. in the latter's Bloodcount group.
Starts out on best behavior with light piano comping along with
the bass, but through six pieces opens up into the sort of free
ruckus you'd expect if Berne were leading.
Anat Fort Trio: And If (2009 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1970 near Tel Aviv in Israel, moved to US in early
1990s, based in New York. Third album, second on ECM. Trio
with Gary Wang (bass) and Roland Schneider (drums). Quiet but
remarkably assured. Opens and closes with meditative pieces
dedicated to Paul Motian; one exception is "Nu" which jumps
around a bit.
Ken Fowser & Behn Gillece: Little Echo (2010,
Posi-Tone): Fowser plays tenor sax; b. 1982, grew up in New Jersey,
attended William Paterson University; studied with Eric Alexander,
Grant Stewart, and Ralph Bowen, and fits into their niche handsomely.
Gillece plays vibes; also b. 1982, somewhere near Philadelphia. First
record for either, quintet with Rick Germanson (piano), Ugonna Okegwo
(bass), and Quincy Davis (drums). Swings hard, the vibes adding a
certain frothy lightness.
Rebecca Coupe Franks: Check the Box (2010, RCF):
Trumpet player, also sings -- four songs here, voice is throwaway
casual and all the more charming for it. Had a couple of records
in 1992, then nothing until a Joe Henderson tribute in 2004 --
this looks like her fifth. Basically a bebopper, with the Latin
tinge from Luis Perdomo's piano and Richie Morales' drums keeping
her jumping. Mary Ann McSweeney plays bass, gets in a nice solo.
While I like her vocals well enough, the three extra vocal tracks
(making 7 of 14) by Summer Corrie are too much, especially since
they don't amount to much.
Gaida: Levantine Indulgence (2009 , Palymra):
Singer, born in Germany, raised in Damascus, also lived in Kuwait
and Paris; moved to Detroit to study biology, got into music singing
in Lebanese restaurants, eventually wound up in New York, where she
taps into a mix of Middle Eastern and jazz musicians -- drummer Eric
McPherson, bassist François Moutin, or both in the case of Iraqi
trumpeter Amir ElSaffar. Mix is more Arab folk/pop than anything
else, but I can't swear that's what it really is.
Gamelan Madu Sari: Hive (2005-07 , Songlines):
Vancouver group, plays classical (or maybe not so classical) Javanese
music, lots of gongs, some strings, more percussion, waves of voices.
Second album. It doesn't grab me, but listening in a dark quiet room
suggests there are plenty of subtle details. Has a very informative
booklet, too, trots and historical details. One could learn a lot if
one had better eyes than I do.
Jan Garbarek/The Hilliard Ensemble: Officium Novum
(2009 , ECM New Series): The third collaboration between the
mediaeval choral group and the Norwegian saxophonist, again playing
more of his curved soprano than tenor. The sax is a clear contrast
to the voices, and no one quite matches the clarity of tone and
measured riffing that Garbarek brings to such affairs. This was
especially striking in the original Officium (1993), but
grew tiring in 1998's Mnemosyne. This splits the difference,
which doesn't make it just right -- more like: just adequate.
Matt Garrison: Familiar Places (2009 ,
D Clef): Not Jimmy Garrison's bass playing son, who generally
goes as Matthew but is listed in Wikipedia as Matt. This one
plays tenor and baritone sax, was b. 1979 in Poughkeepsie, NY.
First album, mostly a hard bop lineup: Bruce Harris (trumpet),
Michael Dease (trombone), Zaccai Curtis (piano, Fender Rhodes),
Luques Curtis (bass), Rodney Green (drums). A couple of songs
add extra: subbing Claudio Roditti (covers gives him a "featuring"
credit) on trumpet (2 cuts) and flugelhorn (1 more); Mark Whitfield
(guitar, 2 cuts); Sharel Cassity and Don Braden (flutes, 2 cuts).
Nothing wrong with any of this -- well, the second flute song,
"Left Behind," is pretty awful -- but it's more like he's trying to
establish his credentials than do something distinctive with them.
Stephen Gauci/Kris Davis/Michael Bisio: Three
(2008 , Clean Feed): Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966,
based in Brooklyn, leans avant, has been deserving of HM mentions
his last two times out (Nididhyasana and Live at Glenn
Miller Café) but somehow slipped through the cracks. He isn't
an especially voluble player, and subtlety can be hard to credit.
Davis is a pianist I like a lot. Her own group features the very
voluble Tony Malaby, generally a plus but he tends to overwhelm
her; she emerges here as a thoughtful counterpoint to the sax,
and for that matter to bassist Bisio, who is always engaging on
sets like this.
Joe Gilman: Americanvas (2009 , Capri):
Pianist, b. 1962 in Sacramento, CA, studied at Indiana University,
teaches at American River College back in Sacramento. Eighth
album since 1991, including two "revists" to Dave Brubeck and
two more to Stevie Wonder. The theme here isn't anywhere near
so simple: not sure what it is, but the liner notes cite various
cultural artifacts from the early 1940s to the early 1960s, and
the sound itself is straight bebop. Gilman's piano is a live
wire, and two saxophonists vie for attention: Ben Flocks and
The Glenious Inner Planet (2009-10 , Blue
Bamboo): Bassist Glen Ackerman, Houston, TX, first album, basically
groove-based although I'm reluctant to file it under pop jazz. With
Woddy Witt on tenor/soprano sax and clarinet, Ted Winglinski on keybs,
Paul Chester on guitar -- all making notable contributions -- and
different drummers for two sessions.
Jared Gold: Out of Line (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Organ player, third album since 2008, but impressed me more for
his work in the Oliver Lake Organ Trio. Chris Cheek doesn't push
him as hard as Lake, but plays strong tenor sax, and Dave Stryker
gives him a guitarist who can also take charge. Drummer is Mark
Goldbug: The Seven Dreams (2009 , 1k):
Tim Moltzer, a guitarist from Philadelphia, seems to be the main
mover in this group, which includes Barry Meehan (bass, piano),
Eric Slick (drums, percussion), and Theo Travis (tenor sax, flute).
(Moltzer also credited with keys/piano/laptop, Meehan and Slick
with voice, although their is little evidence of that). Groove
tableaux, mobile, can be compelling at times but also has a
tendency to slip away.
Brad Goode: Tight Like This (2010, Delmark):
Trumpet player, b. 1963 in Chicago, based in Boulder, CO; eighth (at
least) album since Shock of the New in 1988 has him returning
to Louis Armstrong for the title tune, but in a new-fashioned mode
that isn't all that tight. With Adrean Farrugia (piano), Kelly Sill
(bass), and Anthony Lee (drums). Starts with five covers, adds five
originals, closes "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise." Not sure that
this was the intent, but pretty good quiet storm record.
The Lou Grassi Po Band with Marshall Allen: Live at the
Knitting Factory Volume 1 (2000 , Porter): One more
item in the recent explosion of Marshall Allen recordings. I've
toyed around with the idea of writing a more conventional column,
where I could pick some interesting theme and focus on a small
cluster of records related to that, and the 4-5 recent records
with Sun Ra's long-reclusive Johnny Hodges would be a worthwhile
subject. As it is, he's only one of four horns here, frequently
at each other's throats. The others are Paul Smoker on trumpet,
Steve Swell on trombone, and Perry Robinson on clarinet, while
Wilber Morris plays bass. Grassi is the drummer, b. 1947, with
eight previous Po Band records since 1995. How good this is depends
on how much noise you can stand, since they rarely unravel into
individual strains, even though we know they can do that. Maybe
they just want to stoke the drummer?
Frank Gratkowski/Hamid Drake (2009 , Valid):
Drake should be well known by now; his distinctive percussion
provides an exceptionally flexible and resonant match to anyone
he plays with. Gratkowski plays alto sax, clarinet, and bass
clarinet. B. 1963 in Hamburg, Germany, prolific since 1991 but
this is the first of his twenty-some records I've heard; plays
free and hard, not as harsh as Brötzmann or Gustafsson, but not
easy to distinguish from a dozen others. He's a SFFR if I ever
get hold of the discs.
Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Going to the Ritual
(2008, Porter): Wrote up pretty extensive notes on this duo of
1960s avant-garde heroes for their later Spirits Aloft,
which was so good I figured I had to check out their earlier
album. This is more like what I was expecting, which means that
Grimes plays much more bass than violin, and Ali's drums are
more up front. Neither of those are problems, although it does
take more listener effort to follow bass than violin. Ali died
in 2009, a heart attack, but seems to have been quite active
in his last years. His discography includes four 2009 albums
on Blue Music Group with a very unusual mix of players. Grimes
also has a double-disc solo album on ILK which offhand seems
like way too much, but he's surprised me more than once.
Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (2009
, Porter): Grimes' story should be fairly well known by now.
B. 1935, he was a popular bassist from 1957-67, breaking in with
Gerry Mulligan but from 1964-67 mostly playing with avant-gardists,
including Albert Ayler, Frank Wright, Charles Tyler, Cecil Taylor,
Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and Don Cherry -- for that matter,
1962-63 was transitional, credits there including Sonny Rollins,
McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, and two exceptional avant albums: Perry
Robinson's Funk Dumpling and Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd's
School Days (the name inspiration for the Ken Vandermark
group). Grimes dropped out in 1967, and wasn't heard from again
until 2002 when someone tracked him down, and William Parker gave
him a new bass -- at the time he reportedly hadn't realized that
Ayler had died. He's been a semi-celebrity since 2002, working
steadily, but I generally suspected that the world was cutting
him a fair amount of slack. He had, for instance, one album under
his own name back in 1965; he picked up a second album in 2005,
Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival, but the Henry Grimes
Trio there was supported by two much more famous players: Hamid
Drake and David Murray. Still, this record forces me at least
to make some adjustments. This is a duo and Ali -- who didn't
disappear after Coltrane died but never got much recognition
either -- was clearly secondary. Mostly bass-drums duets, but
Grimes plays some violin as well, not very slick but the higher
pitch projects him impressively. Begins and ends with short
poems, the live set full of sharp edges as Grimes works his
way around his tools, with drum interludes and comments -- less
commanding but no less sharp. This is actually the second duo
album with Grimes and Ali, so I need to check the first out too.
Lars Gullin: Vol. 8 1953-55: Danny's Dream
(1953-55 , Dragon): One of the more obscure records ever
granted a crown recommendation by Richard Cook and Brian Morton's
Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings was The Great Lars
Gullin Vol. 5, an LP that vanished from print shortly after
it was cited in the first edition. Since then, Sweden's baritone
sax great's recordings have been reshuffled into a new series,
which has been coming out about one per year and has not reached
Vol. 11. The sessions from the old Vol. 5 finally
resurfaced in the new Vol. 8, along with a few extras
that add a second sax (tenor) to a surprisingly light and tasty
quartet -- Rolf Berg's guitar is often the secret, but Gullin
himself is key.
Omar Hakim/Rachel Z: The Trio of Oz (2010, Ozmosis):
Probably the 'z' in title and label should be capitalized: they use
all caps everywhere, and I habitually hack them into u&lc. Third
member of the trio is bassist Maeve Royce. Hakim is a drummer, b. 1959,
has a couple of albums and a lot of session work going back to 1978,
some rock (David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Dire Straits, Mariah Carey), some
jazz (Miles Davis, John Scofield, Michael Brecker), some non-jazz
(Kenny G, Najee). Rachel Nicolazzo is the pianist, b. 1962, has a
dozen or more albums since 1990. She would most likely have a higher
reputation had she not changed her name and dabbled in a series of
pop/fusion projects. Fluid pianist, moves around a lot and is always
in firm control. Very solid trio work, closes with a discreet take
on Sting's "King of Pain."
Rich Halley Quartet: Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival
(2008 , Pine Eagle): Featuring Bobby Bradford, whose cornet adds
a second free-wheeling horn to tenor saxophonist Halley's trio. Halley
is from Portland, OR; trained as a field biologist, plays free jazz
with a feel for Aylerian primitivism (what Ayler thought of as spirit).
Has a dozen or so albums since 1984. Bradford adds something, but I
still slightly prefer his trio Mountains and Plains, and
someday hope to dig up deeper background.
Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings (2010, Firehouse
12): Guitarist, studied with Anthony Braxton, has developed a style
which is fiercely independent, sometimes producing impressive records,
sometimes resulting in chaos. She is very much in control here. The
horns -- Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto sax --
add warbly harmonics to her leads, and often just lay back. Ches Smith
plays drums, and the ever reliable John Hébert bass. A record that I
would need more time with, but unfortunately won't get.
Taylor Haskins: American Dream (2009 ,
Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1971, third album since 2004,
the first two on Fresh Sound New Talent. Quartet with Ben
Monder (guitar), Ben Street (bass), and Jef Hirshfield (drums).
Ponderous titles plumbing an American dream that comes off
menacingly gloomy ("the farmer has nothing to sow/the cowboy
has nowhere to roam/the heroes have no one to save/the misfits
find it hard to behave/the merchants have little to sell/the
establishment has secrets to tell/the people have started to
yell/the dreamers are nowhere but hell"); the music even more
Matt Herskowitz: Jerusalem Trilogy (2009-10 ,
Justin Time): Pianist, AMG lists him under classical although his
MySpace lists jazz and alternative first. First record was Plays
Gershwin, so you can take that either way. Uses a lot of strings
here -- Lara St. John's violin, Mike Block's cello, Matt Fieldes's
bass (electric as well as acoustic), the horns limited to Daniel
Schnyder's soprano sax and flute, and Bassam Saba's neys -- Saba
also plays oud, another string instrument. Starts with a piece
called "Polonaise Libanaise," then goes into the title set. Shades
of klezmer, but sounds more like tango to me with its swoosh and
drama. "Crossbones" starts with heavy rock chords, like Keith Emerson
aping Rachmaninoff, then segues into an improv that leaves Emerson
in the dust. Ends with Prokofiev.
Joe Hertenstein/Pascal Niggenkemper/Thomas Heberer: HNH
(2008 , Clean Feed): Got off on a tangent here: I had a database
entry (Penguin 4-star record) for a Christoph Heberer, which is certainly
wrong. There is a drummer named Christoph Haberer, and the trumpet player
Thomas Heberer. Finally decided that the record in question belongs to
Heberer, who was b. 1965, plays quarter-tone trumpet, has a scattered
list of recordings since 1987, some trad jazz, some avant -- Alexander
von Schlippenbach, Misha Mengelberg, Aki Takase. Hertenstein is a drummer,
and has a slight edge in compositions over Heberer. This is his first
album. Niggenkemper plays bass, has one record from 2008 on Konnex.
Tight, fairly minimal free jazz.
Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock
(2008 , Half Note): Trombonist, Latin jazz specialist, has
previously explored the Latin sides of John Coltrane, Miles Davis,
and Wayne Shorter, so this progression has taken on an air of
inevitability. Eddie Palmieri and Randy Brecker are special the
guests du jour; old hands are Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Craig
Handy (saxes, flute, bass clarinet), Bill O'Connell (piano),
Ruben Rodriguez (bass), Robby Ameen (drums), and Pedro Martinez
(percussion). I'm reminded of a correspondent who pointed out
that anyone can throw in some clave but that the music needs
something more. This has something more here and there, and I'd
never accuse Palmieri of faking it, but this seems more like an
exercise. Ends with "Watermelon Man," which has been done better.
Eric Hofbauer: American Fear! (2009 , Creative
Nation Music): Guitarist, b. 1974, has a couple of good records with
his college chum trio, the Blueprint Project, and now four records
under his own name: low-keyed solo guitar with political sentiments --
one previous one was called American Vanity. This one is very
low key, picking around the edges of melodies that aren't quite there.
Not uninteresting, but not a lot that draws you in.
Dave Holland/Pepe Habichuela: Hands (2009 ,
Dare2): Habichuela is a stage name for José Antonio Carmona, b.
1944, guitarist, head of a family of flamenco musicians which
include two more Carmona here on guitar, another (plus one Israel
Porrina) on cajón and percussion. The guitar work is intricate,
tends to pull its punches back into a neat little ball. The bass
adds something, but doesn't stand out on its own.
John Lee Hooker Jr.: Live in Istanbul Turkey
(2010, Steppin' Stone, CD+DVD): B. 1952 in Detroit, played some
as a teen but didn't assume the family trade and start cutting
blues albums until 2004, a couple years after his father died.
Straight second-generation bluesman, doesn't feel the pain or
the worry but knows all the licks, and how to turn them into a
good time. Don't have a date on the concert. Didn't watch the
Lauren Hooker: Life of the Music (2010, Miles High):
Vocalist, writes most of her material, plays some piano (although
Jim Ridl probably plays more). Second album. First one, Right
Where I Belong, spent a lot of time in my HM pile before I gave
up on crediting it. This one drags badly from the start, with "Song
to a Seagull" (her Joni Mitchell cover) especially arch. Still has
a lot of nuance in her voice. Scott Robinson is invaluable among
the side credits.
William Hooker Trio: Yearn for Certainty (2007 ,
Engine): Drummer, b. 1946, has a couple dozen albums since 1982, mostly
odd avant-garde juxtapositions. The trio mix here pits David Soldier
(mandolin, banjo, violin) against Sabir Mateen (sax, flute, clarinet),
which is good for all sorts of sparks. Hooker adds some spoken word,
not exactly a highlight but fair enough within the framework.
Owen Howard: Drum Lore (2009 , Bju'ecords):
Drummer, b. 1965 Edmonton; moved to New York around 1988; fourth
record since 1993; not much of a side credit list -- none of the
11 household names he lists as "performed or recorded with" on his
website show up in his AMG credits list, although Joe Lovano has
something nice to say on the inside cover. One original and ten
covers of songs by drummers, counting "Stompin' at the Savoy" for
Chick Webb (listed ahead of Benny Goodman and Edgar Sampson); the
others are worth listing: Denzil Best, Shelly Manne, Ed Blackwell,
Al Foster, Billy Hart, Tony Williams, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette,
Peter Erskine. Frank Carlberg plays piano, Johannes Weidenmueller
bass, but the music is dominated by a rich range of horns: John
O'Gallagher (alto), Andy Middleton (tenor, soprano), Adam Kolker
(tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), and Alan Ferber (trombone on 4
Humanization 4tet: Electricity (2009 , Ayler):
Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes has his name above the group name.
Below the group name: Rodrigo Amado (tenor sax), Aaron González (bass),
and Stefan González (drums) -- both sons of Dennis. Same group had
an album called Humanization 4tet in 2008, which struck me as
a solid HM. This one has even more juice. Lopes doesn't do a lot of
soloing, but he provides a firm metallic undercarriage for Amado to
blast away from. Lots of short repetitive figures, very solid.
I Never Meta Guitar: Guitarists for the 21st Century
(2009-10 , Clean Feed): Recording date info is spotty -- just 5
of 16 tracks. Not sure but don't think any of this has been previously
released: several contributors have records on the label, but many do
not. The main one who does is Elliott Sharp, creditd as producer here.
Other better known names: Mary Halvorson, Jeff Parker, Henry Kaiser,
Raoul Björkenheim, Noël Akchoté, Nels Cline, Scott Fields. (A couple
of others I've heard of, like Brandon Ross and Jean François Pauvros,
plus a few I haven't.) Mostly solo guitar, with some effects; one cut
adds bass and drums (Michael Gregory's, which, by the way, helps), and
Björkenheim is credited with electric viola da gamba. Not a survey of
current guitar jazz -- nothing here from the Montgomery or McLaughlin
or Pizzarelli or Sharrock schools, and some notables who would have
fit in, like Fred Frith, got left out. But it is an interesting subset,
and the variety helps as some of these guys can get tedious.
Chie Imaizumi: A Time of New Beginnings (2010,
Capri): From Japan, studied at Berklee from 2001, based in Los
Angeles, but recorded this in New York. Third album since 2005,
composing and arranging for a large group with a John Clayton-Jeff
Hamilton-Tamir Hendelman rhythm section and a lot of big name horns
(Steve Wilson, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan, Greg Gisbert, Terrell
Stafford, Steve Davis, and a guest spot for Randy Brecker). Has
its ups and downs, but the ensemble work is often amazing.
Jon Irabagon: Foxy (2010, Hot Cup): Tenor sax
slasher, has a couple albums on his own including one on Concord
that was his reward for winning a Monk prize. It was generally
dismissed as a milquetoasty sellout -- a complaint, by the way,
I don't share, but one that no one's going to make about this
one here. Sax-bass-drums trio, produced by MOPDTK leader Moppa
Elliott, who probably suggested playing off Sonny Rollins' old
sax trio record, Way Out West. Rollins' desert cover scene
has been faked on a sandy beach, the iconic figure of the sax
slinger moved to the back cover to make way for a bikini on the
front. Drummer Barry Altschul gets elevated to "with special
guest" and gets all the girls in a booklet photo, while bassist
Peter Brender gets a surfboard. Song titles: "Foxy," "Proxy,"
"Chicken Poxy," "Boxy," "Hydroxy," "Biloxi," "Tsetse," "Unorthodoxy,"
"Epoxy," "Roxy," "Foxy (Radio Edit)," and "Moxie" -- they could
all be one piece, and the end is so abrupt I checked for power
failure. One of the most intense, relentless sax records ever --
too fast to be free, too noisy to be bop, too ragged to for honk.
Despite the grade, I have reservations -- the same ones I have
not on Rollins' endlessly clever Way Out West but on his
torrential A Night at the Village Vanguard, which I've
only gradually warmed to while critics regard it as a pinnacle.
Altschul, by the way, is terrific throughout. Reminds me that he
is best known for his work with Anthony Braxton, whose take on
Charlie Parker is roughly comparable (though more masterful) to
Vijay Iyer: Solo (2010, ACT): Pianist, b. 1971,
a dozen or so albums since 1995, has been winning a lot of polls
lately, especially with his trio album Historicity sweeping
album of the year honors from Downbeat to The Village
Voice. Solo piano, his first, one of those inevitable coming
out exercises that practically all jazz pianists do sooner or
later -- later than usual in his case, which is one reason I sat
on my advance until it seemed probable no real copy would follow.
Four originals, six cover, two of those from Ellington. Manages
to keep a bright touch and keen interest throughout.
Vijay Iyer: Solo (2010, ACT): Can the best jazz pianist
of the last decade do a solo album? Sure, easy. I can see where his
gracefulness can be beguiling, but want to note that that's not how
he got to where he is, nor likely what he's going to be doing once
he gets back to work. Meanwhile, this looks likely to come in second
in this year's jazz critics polls (behind Jason Moran's Ten,
which is basically the same thing with the benefit of bass and drums).
Iyer's one of the few pianists who's gotten as far as he has without
doing a solo album, so I see this as a career marker, one more that
he's easily passed.
Bobby Jackson: The Café Extra-Ordinaire Story
(1970 , Jazzman): Bassist, born in Birmingham, AL (no date
given), grew up in Milwaukee, in 1966 opened a club called Café
Extra-Ordinaire in Minneapolis, leading what seems to have been
the house band while the booklet her wanders off into other acts
that appeared at the club -- Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, and
Rahsaan Roland Kirk get sections, irrelevant to the music at
hand. Jackson's group cut an album mid-1970 which didn't come
out until 1978 and is reissued here as the seventh release in
Jazzman's "Holy Grail" series. Probably the same Bobby Jackson
released Quest in 2006 and Tails Out in 2010 --
both described as smooth jazz albums, the latter including Tony
Moreno (drums) from this album and Bobby Hughes (sax) who shows
up in booklet pictures but not on the album credits. Enjoyable
record, a little scattered with only one musician contributing
more than one song (electric pianist Hubert Eaves), whatever
funk intent they had complicated by a propensity to swing hard.
Tomas Janzon: Experiences (2010, Changes Music):
Guitarist, from Sweden, studied at Royal School of Music in Stockholm,
moved to Los Angeles in 1991. Third album since 1999. Quartet mostly
with Art Hillery on organ or piano (4 cuts to 2), Jeff Littleton on
bass (9 of 11 cuts), and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums (10 of 11) --
last cut is a brief solo. Likes Wes Montgomery, including a take on
"Full House" here.
Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine (2007 ,
ECM): Thought I should bring this back for another spin, and it gained
some traction, but is still just very nice -- likely to be comparable
to a number of other records, but if you have a soft spot for either
you could be quite happy with it.
[was: B+(*)] B+(**)
Joan Jeanrenaud/PC Muńoz: Pop-Pop (2010, Deconet):
Cellist, b. 1956 in Tennessee, studied at Indiana and in Geneva,
Switzerland, winding up in San Francisco with Kronos Quartet. Third
album under her own name, the others look to be classical (or what's
been called "new music"). Muńoz is a SF-based percussionist; has
a previous record called PC Muńoz's Grab Bag: Otherworldly Sonic
Adventures!. Doesn't have the rhythmic feel of jazz, but does
keep a regular propulsive vibe going, and makes for an intriguing
piece of instrumental music.
Billy Jenkins with the Voice of God Collective: Sounds
Like Bromley (1982, VOTP): A little unpreposessing for
the Voice of God, at least until the last track when they finally
do shake the earth. Three horns -- trumpet, trombone, tenor sax --
more oompah band than bebop, with an extra guitar, bass, drums
and percussion, but no human voices. I keep shying away from
calling what he does surreal or dada because it's too corny,
and too populist, with just enough stray noise and weirdness
to keep it from ever going popular.
Billy Jenkins with the Voice of God Collective: Greenwich
(1985, VOTP): A big step toward the avant-garde, most likely due to
the two new saxophonists replacing the trumped on Sounds Like
Bromley. I have no idea who Skid Solo is -- name comes from a
comic strip about a Formula 1 driver, but you can see how it might
relate -- but Iain Ballamy is well known and a major pickup here.
Not that the guitarist's cartoonish populism doesn't poke through
here and there, nor that the slow ones can get wobbly, but this is
a pretty amazing band when they're skittering about, and Ballamy
adds some real stature.
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume One (1986,
VOTP): One of those early albums, seems like it might be a comp
but all six tracks date from Jan-Feb 1986, a sextet with two saxes
(one switching to bass clarinet), electric bass and guitar, drums
and percussion. Titles are certainly uncommercial -- "Spastics
Dancing," "Sade's Lips," "Margaret's Menstural Problems" -- but
the music is within grasp, the guitar mostly hot and bluesy fusion,
Iain Ballamy's tenor sax on "Pharoah Sanders" a good deal more
contained -- amusingly so -- than the model, although in general
he's one of the more powerful saxophonists of the 1980s. Couldn't
play first track, one reason for hedging.
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume Two (1988,
VOTP): Now, this is more like uncommercial, with a circusy sound
indicated by Iain Ballamy spending more time on soprano than tenor
sax, and Jenkins more time hacking at the strings instead of blues
or fusion riffing. "Isn't It a Great World We Live In" features
the VOGC Junior League Vocal Chorus -- VOGC stands for Voice of
God Collective. "Girl Getting Knocked Over" descends into nursery
rhymes. "Black Magic" breaks the kiddie spell for some expansive
space mystery. "Blue Broadway" is a boogie woogie, with chorus and
romping street horns that sound more New York than New Orleans,
not that they do that sort of thing in New York. Again, first
track "temporarily unavailable," and a couple of others failed
intermittently, the only thing that dimmed my smile.
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume Three
(1991, VOTP): Not commercial either, but the populism here is
so big-hearted the masses are missing out on a lot of fun.
First cut opens with organ, horn section, the VOGS Male Voice
Choir, and Harriet Jenkins spoken word -- why not just call
it rap? Jenkins plays keyboards, violin, and electric bass as
well as his usual guitar, by turns fast, heavy, psychedelic.
"Dancing in Ornette Coleman's Head" is a great title. Indeed,
everything here dances, although "Land of the Free" slows it
down to a waltz.
Billy Jenkins: I Am a Man From Lewisham (2010, VOTP):
British guitarist, has recorded a lot since the early 1980s but hardly
anyone have heard him, or heard of him. I haven't heard much myself,
especially of his early stuff; his later stuff is idiosyncratic, with
True Love Collection -- a psychedelic reworking of cutesy
1960s (or early 1970s) pop songs -- a personal favorite. This one
starts and ends with blues, the title song and "Throw Them Blues in
the Recycling Bin," both with hoarse Jenkins vocals, but the music
gets pretty slippery even there, even more so in the instrumentals
Capathia Jenkins/Louis Rosen: The Ache of Possibility
(2009, Di-tone): Rosen plays guitar, writes the songs -- borrowing
lyrics from Nikki Giovanni for four of twelve -- and is a sly singer
when he gets the chance, as on "The Middle-Class (Used to Be) Blues":
the sharpest political song here in an album that carries a lot of
political message. Jenkins is a church-schooled soul belter -- more
impressive vocally but not in Aretha Franklin's league, and less
interesting as a result. No strong reason to treat this as jazz --
as the hype sheet suggests -- other than the occasional horns and
congas, which don't add up to much. Two previous albums, one full
of Nikki Giovanni songs, the other called South Side Stories.
Marc Courtney Johnson: Dream of Sunny Days (2004-08
, Dreamy Jazz): Vocalist, b. 1967, studied at Norther Illinois
University and University of Chicago. Based in Chicago (MySpace page
says Skokie). Second album. Wrote 6 of 13 songs, including one to
celebrate Obama's election. Smooth voice, not quite slick. Don't see
much credits info, but Geof Bradfield is the saxophonist, a good one.
Tom Johnson: Rational Melodies (2008 , New
World): Minimalist composer, b. 1939, originally best known for
his column on new music in the Village Voice from 1972-82. I knew
him briefly and read him regularly at the Voice; I admired his
writing and his vast expertise and disciplined taste. He moved to
Paris in 1983 and hasn't been heard from much since then -- but
every now a recording of his work pops up. An Hour for Piano
(1979) was a delightful piece, while Nine Bells (1982) was
pretty tiring. "Rational Melodies" was composed in 1982 and has
been recorded once before, by Eberhard Blum in 1993, playing solo
flute, released on Hat Art. This version is played by the enemble
Dedalus -- guitar, trombone, saxophone, flute, violin, cello, bass,
piano -- directed by Didier Aschour. Together, and they always play
together, they sould like a particularly rich synthesizer. The
rhythm is fixed, so all that varies are the melodies, and they
are, well, quite rational about it, but somehow they manage to
avoid the tedium they're aiming at.
Theo Jörgensmann/Marcin Oles/Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Live
in Poznan 2006 (2006 , Fenomedia): Could have parsed
the titles differently here, as all the front cover and spine have
is Fenomedia Live Series, the back cover adding Volume 1
(or Volume 2 for the Oles Brothers/Rob Brown Live at SJC
set). Both have thin kraft brown wallets, some info in one slot, the
CD in the other. I went with the top two lines of the back cover,
which are formatted similarly. Jörgensmann seems to be the Oles
brothers' preferred (or default) trio partner. He is older, b. 1948
in Bottrop, Germany, plays clarinet (here "bassett clarinet" --
more commonly spelled "basset"; a bit longer with more low notes
than a standard clarinet), evidently has a couple dozen records
since the early 1970s. He's often terrific here, fast, something
the bass-and-drum style facilitates. First time I've heard him;
someone I'd like to hear more from.
Darrell Katz/Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: A
Wallflower in the Amazon (2009 , Accurate):
Composer, based in Boston, teaches at Berklee, has eight
records since 1992, the earliest as JCAO. The organization
dates back to 1985, and Katz is listed as "founder/director,"
with many other composers passing through. Their MySpace
page lists five other "resident composers," but only Katz
provides songs here -- three with poems by Paula Tatarunis,
and Katz-arranged covers of Ellington, Willie Dixon (one
you know from Muddy Waters: "Hoochie Koochie Man"), and
Big Maceo Merriweather. Most pieces have vocals, and I find
Rebecca Shrimpton warbly on most of them. The exception is
"Hoochie Koochie Man" where Mike Finnigan takes over. That's
when I also started noticing the fine print, which is where
Katz excels as an arranger.
Achim Kaufmann/Robert Landfermann/Christian Lillinger:
Grünen (2009 , Clean Feed): Piano trio.
Kaufmann is the pianist, b. 1962 in Aachen, Germany, based in
Amsterdam; has eight or so records since 1998, some with Frank
Gratkowski, some with Michael Moore, has a connection to Dylan
van der Schyff, has a solo album. Landfermann plays bass;
Lillinger drums. Group improvs, free form, some noise effects
that remind me of prepared piano although they could come from
Jin Hi Kim/Gerry Hemingway: Pulses (2009 ,
Auricle): Kim -- I'm assuming that that's the surname and that the
Korean name has been reversed for western tastes (Wikipedia lists
her as Kim Jin-Hi) -- plays komungo (Korean fourth century fretted
board zither), and "co-designed the world's only electric komungo."
Born in Seoul in 1957, moved to US in 1980. Appears to be a significant
figure in Korean traditional music although her discography includes
a number of duos/small groups with jazz musicians: Elliott Sharp,
Henry Kaiser, Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne, Evan Parker, Sainkho
Namchylak, Fredy Studer, Peter Kowald, Thomas Buckner, Robert Dick,
and a previous album with Hemingway called Komungo Ecstasy.
The komungo strikes me as like a bass with guitar harmonics. It fills
the grooves with sound and carries a strong rhythm. Hemingway has
much less to do here than on the other two records, or at least does
much less. Makes it a bit less interesting as a duo but fascinating
in its own right.
Guillermo Klein: Domador de Huellas: Music of "Chuchi"
Leguizamon (2009 , Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1970 in
Buenos Aires, Argentina, studied at Berklee, based in New York,
eighth album since 1997, most with a large band he calls Los
Gauchos. This one is a tribute to Argentine songwriter Gustavo
"Cuchi" Leguizamón, who wrote/co-wrote all but Klein's title
track. Most songs have vocals, mostly sung by Klein who doesn't
give them a very felicitous airing, although guests Liliana
Herrero and Carme Canela do little better.
Klezwoods: Oy Yeah! (2010, Accurate): Boston
klezmer ensemble, nine instruments including tuba and accordion.
Alec Spiegelman (clarinet) and/or Joe Kessler (violin) seem to
be the movers in a group full of strikingly unjewish names --
Laughman, McLaughlin, O'Neill, Stevig. They play traditional
fare including pieces from Yemen and the Balkans, plus one
semi-original by Alec Spiegelman patterned on "Giant Steps"
(called "Giant Jew"). Tends toward sweet and nostalgic.
Eero Koivistoinen & Co.: 3rd Version (1973
, Porter): Finnish saxophonist, b. 1946, plays soprano,
sopranino and tenor here, leading a band with Fender-Rhodes piano
(Heikki Sarmanto), guitar (Jukka Tolonen), bass (Pekka Sarmanto),
and two drummers (Craig Herndon and Reino Laine). His "selected
discography" lists 35 items going back to the Hendrix-influenced
Blues Section in 1967, including some UMO Jazz Orchestra
records. This has a fusion angle, at least in the guitar/keyb
vein, but it's much rougher and freer, even more so than the
McLaughlin-influenced English avant-garde of the period. Porter
has been reissuing a lot of rare gems from the early 1970s,
things I hadn't heard but would have latched onto instantly at
the time. Also in their catalog are three discs by the keyboard
player here, Heikki Sarmanto, clearly a SFFR.
Hilary Kole: You Are There (2008-09 , Justin
Time): Another standards singer, also second album, different approach:
thirteen songs done with eleven duet partners on piano, nothing more --
exception: can't keep Freddy Cole from singing, wouldn't even want to.
Double helpings for Hank Jones and Dave Brubeck -- the former a delight,
the latter better when he's not doing his own tricky song. Impressive,
slow, austere, traits that can turn into a drag except when they're
not -- "Lush Life," which has sunk many singers, is nothing less than
Andrew Lamb Trio: New Orleans Suite (2005 ,
Engine): Tenor saxophonist (also credited with flute, clarinet,
and harmonica here), b. 1958 in North Carolina, grew up in Chicago
and Queens, studied with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, has a handful
of records, mostly with drummer Warren Smith (e.g., The Dogon
Duo). Tom Abbs (bass, cello, didgeridoo, percussion) fills out
the trio. Smith takes charge early on with a rant about Katrina,
"Dyes and Lyes," worth featuring on your post-Brownie mix tape.
After that they settle down for some inside-out improv that won't
turn heads but will pique your interest.
Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Ashcan Rantings
(2009 , Clean Feed, 2CD): Bassist, b. 1968, has been recording
since the mid-1990s. Haven't heard his early albums on Cadence/CIMP,
but everything I have heard is brilliant. Most jazz musicians label
themselves "composer" followed or preceded by their instrument, and
Lane is no exception. I normally discount that because everyone says
as much, but he continually remind me of Mingus, both in his grasp of
how to push the tradition to the brink and especially in his knack
for running a band. He got a huge sound from his 7-piece Full Throttle
Orchestra back on New Magical Kingdom -- a Jazz CG Pick Hit --
and this one is bigger: aside from himself, a completely new lineup,
dropping the guitar and adding three more horns for a powerhouse nonet,
and a double serving of new arrangements. The horn work is dazzling,
especially the newfound trombones -- missing on the previous album --
and the bass pulses throughout.
Yusef Lateef/Adam Rudolph: Towards the Unknown (2009
, Meta): The former Bill Evans broke into Dizzy Gillespie's
orchestra in 1949. He began recording under the name Yusef Lateef
around 1957, mostly on tenor sax, sometimes on oboe, and was one
of the first saxophonists to play substantial amounts of flute. His
name came out of an interest in Asian and African musics, which he
did much to integrate into jazz during the early 1960s. I've only
sampled him occasionally, and actually the only record of his I
really recommend is a two-tenor duel from 1992 called Tenors of
Yuseef Lateef and Archie Shepp, but I haven't heard several
other promsing duos from the same period. The percussionist took
an early interest in African music and finally hooked up with
Lateef in 1991, and they've done quite a bit together since then.
(Lateef was a few weeks shy of 89 when this one was recorded.)
This is constructed from two extended pieces, a "Concerto for
Brother Yusef" written by Rudolph, and "Percussion Concerto (for
Adam Rudolph)" written by Lateef. Both are victimized by classical
accompaniment: the former by the Go: Organic Strings, the latter
by Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble. I do hope Lateef's lethargy is
simply the fault of the arrangements. Rudolph can be fascinating
when he gets some space to stretch out.
Dana Lauren: It's You or No One (2010, Dana Lauren
Music): Standards singer, from Boston, b. 1988, second album. Nothing
here Ella Fitzgerald hasn't done better, a comparison begged by closing
the album with "Mr. Paganini." Good piano support from Manuel Valera,
and she's fortunate to have Joel Frahm's tenor sax around. Nonetheless,
she dispenses with both for a a "Sunny Side of the Street" with nothing
but one-shot guest Christian McBride's bass, and it's the best thing
Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo,
Volume 2 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz): A second set
at the Bimhuis, not as loud as the first, and not just because
Vandermark lays out on the 12:26 opening "Knuckle Cracking Party":
an exercise where Andy Moor and Terrie Ex tease abstractions out
of their guitars. The main act is the 30:16 "Chunk of Lung," so
named because Vandermark thought he lost one somewhere. Same piece
appeared on Volume 1, not that you can tell. This is less
loud, has some breaks, lets the guitars articulate more. Probably
a development, but gives up a bit of Volume 1's rush.
Urs Leimgruber & Evan Parker: Twine (2007
, Clean Feed): Two saxophonists, both play soprano and
tenor, with soprano listed first. Parker needs no introduction,
at least here. Leimgruber is Swiss, b. 1952 in Lucerne, based
in France. He has twenty or so albums since 1983. I have two
of them I picked up in a Hat Hut clearance sale somewhere and
never got around to. He's well regarded, clearly someone I
should get to know better. Three long improv pieces here,
called "Twine," "Twirl," and "Twist." Scratchy at first, but
the repeated circling, twisting and turning, is fascinating
in the end -- if, of course, you can stand this sort of
Daniel Levin Quartet: Bacalhau (2009 , Clean
Feed): Cellist, with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Peter Bitenc (double bass),
and Matt Moran (vibes), a combo that tends to be stratchy with blips
and bits here and there.
Greg Lewis: Organ Monk (2010, Greg Lewis): Hammond
B3 player, based in New York, first album, a trio with Ron Jackson
on guitar and Cindy Blackman on drums. Thelonious Monk compositions
as far as the eye can see. It's a concept; just not an especially
Charles Lloyd Quartet: Mirror (2009 , ECM): Tenor
saxophonist, b. 1938, joined Chico Hamilton's band (replacing Eric
Dolphy as music director) in 1960, broke out on his own in 1965
and was remarkably successful, both popularly and critically, in
turn launching the careers of Keith Jarrett and Jack De Johnette.
Had the usual rough spot in the mid-'70s and '80s, landing at
ECM in 1989 and working steady ever since. Last year's record,
Rabo de Nube, placed very high in year-end jazz polls.
This is the same group -- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers
on bass, Eric Harland on drums -- doing pretty much the same
thing; just fewer originals, but Monk and trad. make up for that.
Los Angeles Jazz Collective: Sampler Vol. 1 (2006-08
, Jazz Collective): Young mainstream Los Angeles-based jazz
musicians, not an integral group. Website lists 13 members, each on
1-5 cuts here, and has a second list of 20 "other members," most
not here. The latter list has some people I recall running across,
but none on this sampler. The only one on the record that I'm sure
I recognize is drummer Mark Ferber, on 4 cuts but not neither list.
Less sure about saxophonists Matt Otto and Robby Marshall -- Otto,
with 5 cuts and about that many records seems to be the dean here.
Not much info with the package. I couldn't track down all of the
referenced albums, and one cut doesn't seem to have come from
anywhere, but what I could find fits the dates above. The groups
range from 3 to 6 members, skewed toward fewer (median 4). Most
have guitar and sax; 2 of 13 have trumpet and trombone; Joe Bagg's
organ is more common than piano. Only interesting thing is that
so many scattered groups sound so consistent lined up like this,
but that could be taken as proof of their ordinariness.
Russ Lossing: Personal Tonal (2009 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): Pianist, leads a sax quartet with Loren Stillman on alto,
John Hebert on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums. The piano is jumpy,
shifty, the lead track so radical that when it's followed by Ornette
Coleman's "School Days" the latter sounds like a way of resolving the
chaos into a pop hook. Stillman fits Lossing to a tee, and Hebert,
as usual, can do no wrong.
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green: Apex (2010,
Pi): Mahanthappa's second alto sax duo date this year. The first
with Steve Lehman was a pick hit and is near the top of my year end
list. This one points the opposite direction, going with an older
partner, b. 1935 in Milwaukee, long based in Chicago, has a dozen
or so albums since 1960, has taught since 1972, now in Jacksonville
at the University of North Florida. Bebopper, which seems to excite
pianist Jason Moran and (especially) drummer Damion Reid, and may
well have Mahanthappa fantasizing of Sonny Stitt -- who played duos
with Green in the mid-1960s -- or maybe even Bird. I used to view
Mahanthappa as a Coltrane man, but he seems to adapt to pretty much
any context without settling into a distinctive style.
Xavier Charles/Ivar Grydeland/Christian Wallumrřd/Ingar Zach:
Dans les Arbres (2008 , ECM): Group name is officially
Dans les Arbres, but artist names appear on cover and last names appear
on spine, and all four names are attached to all eight pieces. Charles
plays clarinet and harmonica; Grydeland acoustic guitar, banjo, sruti
box; Wallumrřd piano; Zach percussion, bass drum. Charles is French,
the others Norwegian. Hype sheet cites John Cage and Morton Feldman as
influences. Banjo is prepared, and piano sounds a little surreal as
well. Lots of space isolates scattered sounds, all very dark and not
very clearly connected.
Mike Mainieri: Crescent (2005 , NYC, 2CD):
Vibraphonist, b. 1938, discography starts in 1962 but AMG only
lists 17 albums over 48 years and he's never registered much on
my radar -- just enough to keep him separate from the Maneri
clan. Been sitting on this for a while, noticing how far behind
I was when another new 2CD set came in. Can't say I was looking
forward to it, but that's only because I missed the fine print.
Actually, front cover says "featuring Charlie Mariano" then adds
another name in smaller print, Dieter Ilg -- the bassist here.
Mariano died in 2009, an alto saxophonist whose vast discography
goes back to the early 1950s. Don't know him all that well either,
but he's blown me away on occasion, especially on the two It's
Standard Time volumes he cut with Tete Montoliu (1989, Fresh
Sound). Don't have the recording date here, but liner notes refer
to a 2005 session with Mariano winded from an illness and Mainieri
affect by a hand injury. Title and more than half of the songs
are from Coltrane -- the other half must fall in the songbook
somewhere. Mariano sounds more poignant than I expected, suits a
posthumous album. The vibes and bass keep a respectful distance.
Mike Mainieri/Marnix Busstra Quartet: Trinary Motion
(2008 , NYC, 2CD): Vibraphonist Mainieri is the senior here,
but guitarist Busstra is the driving force, writing most of the
pieces and providing the thrust which the vibes accentuate. The
others are Eric van der Westen on bass and Pieter Bast on drums.
Tony Malaby's Tamarindo: Live (2010, Clean Feed):
Originally a tenor sax trio with Malaby, William Parker on bass, and
Nasheet Waits on drums. This time adds Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet.
Sounds like a good deal, but Smith focuses on the tight riffing he
specializes in, and Malaby never breaks out -- sound seems a little
muffled to me.
Rafi Malkiel: Water (2009 , Tzadik):
Trombonist, b. 1972 in Israel, based in New York, second album,
following the delightful My Island in 2007. Also plays
euphonium, which he has tricked up to make something he calls
aguaphonium here. Styles himself as a Latin jazz specialist,
surrounding himself with various Latino percussionists as well
as fellow travelers like Anat and Avishai Cohen. Jumps to a
fast start, wavers a bit when they slip and slow down. Depends
more on the horn layers than on the rhythm, but needs both to
work: "Eden Rain" is a good mix, "River Blue" another.
The Wynton Marsalis Quintet & Richard Galliano: From
Billie Holiday to Edith Piaf: Live in Marciac (2008 ,
Rampart Street Music): Live in France, kicked out on a vanity label --
don't know whether that means that Marsalis is through with Blue Note
or this is just too low concept to bother them with. Accordionist
Galliano arranged the pieces. A binational singers tribute sounds
like the sort of idea Marsalis would have come up with, but neither
party brought a singer -- just as well, I'm sure -- so what we get
is a standards roast. "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" is done so
boisterously it trips over the top, but most of the material holds
together better, especially the closing "La Vie en Rose."
Mike Marshall/Caterina Lichtenberg: Caterina Lichtenberg
and Mike Marshall (2009 , Adventure Music): Mandolin
duets. Marshall, like most American mandolinists, started in
bluegrass, but then he took a turn into Brazilian choro and his
discography and especially his label now tilt that way. Lichtenberg
was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, is based in Germany; she specializes
in baroque classical music, and that's where they start here:
with J.S. Bach, then Jean-Marie Leclair; they mix in Jose Antonio
Zambrano's "Suite Venezuelana," two pieces by Jacob do Bandolim,
one from Zequendo de Abrel, a Bulgarian trad tune, a couple of
Marshall's pieces -- all sounding, to me at least, pretty baroque.
Masada String Trio: Haborym: The Book of Angels, Volume
16 (2010, Tzadik): Mark Feldman (violin), Erik Friedlander
(cello), Greg Cohen (bass). Group was originally assembled by John
Zorn for his 50th birthday celebration, and returns here to take
a whack at Zorn's klezmer-flavored Book of Angels series.
Most pieces have intriguing grooves, moved along smartly by the
bass, which keeps the violin from getting stuck in anything
chamber-ish, and some even have a bit of mischievous noise.
Alexander McCabe: Quiz (2009-10 , CAP): Alto
saxophonist, third album since 2001, website suggests he's mostly
interested in doing film music. Mainstream, exceptionally fluid and
inventive, recorded in two sessions with different drummers -- Greg
Hutchinson on two cuts, Rudy Royston on five -- with Ugonna Okegwo
on bass and Uri Caine on piano. Most albums like this trip up on
the piano solos but Caine really takes off.
Terrence McManus/Gerry Hemingway: Below the Surface Of
(2008 , Auricle): Guitar-drums duo; guitarist is from Brooklyn,
seems to have 4-6 records since 2006 -- website doesn't have dates on
anything; AMG lists one record not on website -- some solo, some in
small groups he may or may not lead. Builds his own guitars, including
the "nylon string stereo guitar" second-credited here. Has a distinctive
ring to his electric, and holds your interest all by himself. Hemingway
works around him, much as he did with Eskelin.
John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny
(2009 , Sunnyside): Trumpet, tenor sax, respectively; McNeil
b. 1948, a veteran of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra with a
bunch of albums on Steeplechase I haven't heard. McHenry is much
younger, b. 1972, his 1998 debut on Fresh Sound New Talent. Both
are mainstream players, although their pianoless quartet's effort
at rediscovering lost bop gems -- three Russ Freeman pieces here,
one each from Thad Jones and Wilbur Harden (and another trumpet
player named Miles Davis), the other three minor standards --
has its own root-seeking radicalism. With Joe Martin on bass,
Jochen Rueckert on drums. Recorded live. After three plays still
has some upside potential.
John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny
(2009 , Sunnyside): Trumpeter McNeil is a generation older
and probably a good deal more idiosyncratic than the others, which
means not only he revives lost bop gems he embues them with their
own idiosyncratic spin, including some of that Latin tinge. I'm
rather surprised not to see this pop up on any year-end lists so
far. Not exactly my thing, but I could imagine more bop-oriented
fans falling hard for it -- unless they can't loosen up.
Jacob Melchior: It's About Time (2010, Jacob
Melchior): Drummer, b. 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark; passed through
Brazil before landing in New York in 1994. First album, a piano
trio with Tadataka Unno on piano and Hassan JJ Shakur on bass
with "special guest" Frank Senior singing one cut, "For All We
Know." Unno was b. 1980 in Tokyo, Japan; also based in New York;
has two albums. Nice mainstream work.
Pablo Menéndez & Mezcla: I'll See You in Cuba
(2009 , Zoho): Guitarist, b. 1966 in Oakland, CA, moved to
Cuba at age 14 and has lived there ever since -- his mother was
folksinger Barbara Dane, who recorded albums like I Hate the
Capitalist System. Second album with Menéndez's name up front,
although his band has another half dozen going back to the 1980s.
Eclectic mix of Cuban styles, a little unsettled but proficient.
Mercury Falls: Quadrangle (2010, Porto Franco):
Group; first album. Writers are Patrick Cress (alto sax, baritone
sax, bass clarinet, flute) and Ryan Francesconi (guitar, electronics);
others are Eric Perney (bass) and Tim Bulkley (drums). Two songs have
guest voice credits. Not clear where they are based: MySpace says
"United States"; Francesconi says Portland, OR; Cress has another
group in Oakland, CA; Bulkley says Brooklyn, but is also in the other
Cress group; guest Michelle Amador also hails from Brooklyn. Could
be they think of this as experimental rock -- they list Tortoise
first on their MySpace list of influences -- but it's more lukewarm,
measured and tasteful.
Peppe Merolla: Stick With Me (2009 ,
PJ Productions): Drummer, b. 1969 Naples, Italy, based in New
York (and/or Philadelphia?), has two previous albums, sings
at least on Sogno Italiano (Italian Dream), but not
here. The central figure here isn't the drummer, who wrote
1 of 9 songs, but tenor saxophonist and co-producer John
Farnsworth, who wrote 5. Unfortunately, he doesn't make much
of an impression, the album falling into fairly ordinary
postbop. Also with Steve Turre (trombone, shells), Jim
Rotondi (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike LeDonne (piano), and
Lee Smith (bass).
Metropole Orkest/John Scofield/Vince Mendoza: 54
(2009 , Emarcy): Mendoza conducts the bloated Orkest -- 15
violins, 5 violas, 2 flutes, oboe, French horn, harp, etc. -- and
arranged 7 of 10 pieces, farming the others out to Florian Ross
and Jim McNeely. Every now and then they jell into a powerhouse,
but mostly they clutter things up. The guest star can still play
his trademark fluid guitar, when he gets a chance and can be heard
over the din.
Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known
(2009 , Clean Feed): Bassist, based in San Francisco, first
album, has a handful of side credits going back to 1996, no one I
recognize except (barely/obviously) Pyeng Threadgill. Quartet, with
Aaron Bennett (tenor sax), John Finkbeiner (guitar), and Vijay
Anderson (drums). Anderson I recognize because he has a new record
on Not Two I just added to my wish list. Needed to jog my memory
on Bennett and Finkbeiner, but they are indispensible cogs in Adam
Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra -- which has a past pick hit and a
new record I don't have yet but Stef Gijssels has raved about --
and Finkbeiner is part of Nice Guy Trio. Finkbeiner has an uncanny
knack for adding harmonics to Bennett's sax, making this play more
like a two-horn group than sax-guitar. The bassist composed eight
of ten pieces, covering one from Air -- Pyeng's father's group,
although Steve McCall is the author -- and one from Don Van Vliet
called "Lick My Decals Off, Baby." She also works in a lot of bass
solos/leads, fine by me.
[PS: Did finally get the new Adam Lane record, and neither Bennett
nor Finkbeiner are on it, so maybe not so indispensible; will see
when I get to it.]
The Microscopic Septet: Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros
Play Monk (2010, Cuneiform): Sax quartet (Phillip Johnston
on soprano, Don Davis on alto, Mike Hashim on tenor, Dave Sewelson
on baritone) plus piano-bass-drums (Joel Forrester, David Hofstra,
Richard Dworkin). Been around since the early 1980s, skipping a
couple decades between 1988 and 2008. Monk mostly wrote for a
sax-piano quartet, so the extra horns scale up cleanly. That the
group's leader, Johnston, plays soprano sax makes it likely that
he's refracting Monk through Steve Lacy. Also helps that the tenor
guy (Hashim) is one of the most irrepressible swingers in the
business. In any case, it all works like a charm.
Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory: Far Side
(2007 , ECM): Venerable AACM saxophonist (b. 1940), leads
a mostly Chicago/Detroit-based double quartet, recorded live in
Burghausen for Bayerischer Rundfunk: two pianos (Craig Taborn,
Vijay Iyer), two basses (Jaribu Shahid, Harrison Bankhead, the
latter also switching to cello), two drumsets (Tani Tabbal,
Vincent Davis), two horns (Corey Wilkes on trumpet/flugelhorn
is the other). Four long pieces, like in the old days. Perhaps
to soothe the label the first one takes a while to gear up, and
there are uneventful spots here and there. But the clash of
pianos is pretty amazing, and the horns can bring some noise,
especially from the leader.
Tim Moltzer + Markus Reuter: Descending (2010,
1k): Goldbug guitarist, also credited with electronics, still
not sure whether he gravitates toward jazz or experimental rock
or what. Reuter, b. 1972, from Germany, plays "touch guitar"
and electronics; has eight or so albums, more or less ambient
electronica. Several others are credited here, including Theo
Travis on alto flute and BJ Cole on 12-string pedal steel, but
the record is mostly swallowed up in slow, simmmering sheets
of silvery sound -- descending, indeed.
Nils Petter Molvaer: Hamada (2009 , Thirsty
Ear): No dates, but came out last fall on his own Sula label,
possibly picked up by Universal, a company so huge that its
American and European arms don't much care what the other is
doing. Chilled trumpet over Eivind Aarset's frigid guitar, Jan
Bang's sampling, and/or scattered electronics. I like it more
when the percussion picks up, especially when the guitar goes
heavy metal on "Cruel Altitude," but the ambient surfaces
Joe Morris/Nate Wooley: Tooth and Nail (2008
, Clean Feed): Guitar-trumpet duets, rather fractured,
which of course is Morris's specialty. I've heard Wooley in
a number of promising contexts lately, but he's rarely stood
out, and seems pretty superfluous here.
Rakalam Bob Moses/Greg Burk: Ecstatic Weanderings
(2002 , Jazzwerkstatt): Moses is a drummer/percussionist,
b. 1948, played quite young with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, moved on to
Larry Coryell and Gary Burton, cut some well-regarded albums for
Gramavision in the 1980s but has only sporadically appeared as a
leader before or since. Not sure when he picked up the Rakalam --
actually haven't paid much attention to him, although I do have
an unplayed copy of When Elephants Dream of Music around
here somewhere. Burk is a pianist, 21 years younger, from Michigan,
based in Rome with stops in Boston and Bratislava. Always struck
me as an interesting freebopper, but this is something else: a
piano-drums duo (reversing roles for 1 of 8 cuts, the most chaotic),
avant improv with African allusions -- on the percussion-led
"Primativo" anyhow, though other pieces push the piano out front
Neel Murgai Ensemble (2008 , Innova):
Murgai plays sitar and daf, a Persian frame drum. Based in New
York (Brooklyn), not sure where he's from or when he was born,
but New York is leading candidate. Studied civil engineering
at Georgia Tech before getting into music. Studied sitar with
Pundit Krishna Bhatt. Ensemble adds Mat Maneri on viola, Greg
Heffernan on cello, and Sameer Gupta on tabla.
David Murray Black Saint Quartet: Live in Berlin
(2007 , Jazzwerkstatt): With Lafayette Gilchrist (piano),
Jaribu Shahid (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), working under the
same group moniker as Murray used for Sacred Ground, but
with different bassist-drummer. Murray's bass clarinet gets first
credit here, but he plays a lot of really monster tenor sax here
in a typical tour de force. The weak link is Gilchrist, who gets
two long solos that mostly find me missing John Hicks. Shahid
does better with his spot.
Roberto Occhipinti: A Bend in the River (2010,
Alma): Bassist, b. 1955 in Toronto; fourth album since 2006;
nominally a quartet with Luis Deniz on alto sax, David Virelles
on piano, and Dafnis Prieto on drums, but three of seven cuts
pile on a string quartet, flute, bass clarinet, and trumpet,
while three more swim in a full-fledged string orchestra. The
sax paints bright colors but doesn't stand out, and while
Prieto's presence promises some hot Cuban percussion none
Mark O'Leary & Sunny Murray: Ode to Albert Ayler
(2002 , Ayler): O'Leary is an Irish guitarist, from Cork, b.
1969. He's been a SFFR ever since I first ran across him in Anthony
Braxton's 2003 standards quartet. He has nine records on Leo since
2000 (recording date; actual release dates start in 2005), a couple
more scattered hither and yon. Murray, of course, is one of the
great free jazz drummers to come of age in the 1960s, probably
inspiring the title with his 1964-65 stint with Albert Ayler -- a
stretch of 5-6 albums including Spiritual Unity. He was 65
when this was recorded, with his fine Perles Noires albums
still in the future. O'Leary gets a range of sounds from his guitar,
ranging from metallic to a dull synth sound, like he's still trying
to work out his preferred sound.
Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Duo (2008,
Fenomedia): Twin brothers, b. 1973 in Sosnowiec, Poland. Marcin
plays bass; Bartlomiej drums. They've recorded quite a bit since
a 1999 group called Custom Trio, sometimes as Oles Brothers,
often named separately with Marcin listed first. Some are the
result of international jazz stars tramping through Poland --
David Murray and Ken Vandermark appear to have been the first,
and there's a more recent record with Herb Robertson. Some are
fronted by Polish saxophonists -- Adam Pieronczyk is one I like,
Andrzej Przybielski is one I haven't run across yet. Aside from
a drum solo album, they almost always play as a team, so you'd
expect tight communication and balance, but it's still surprising
how well this duo works out. The bass provides all the melodic
structure and harmony you need -- this never feels empty, unlike
80% of the duo records I've heard. (Not sure how many bass-drums
duos there have even been -- Parker-Drake, of course, some good
records there.) Helps that this mostly keeps a regular groove.
Oles Brothers with Rob Brown: Live at SJC (2008
, Fenomedia): Put a saxophonist in front of the Polish bass
and drums duo (Marcin Oles and Bartlomiej Brat Oles) and you mostly
hear the saxophone -- in this case altoist Rob Brown, who caught
our attention originally in William Parker's Quartet. The brothers
tend to be supportive in this role (as opposed to the avant norm
of combative), which makes this a good showcase for Brown, an
impressive player who gets stretched a bit thin.
Andrew Oliver Sextet: 82% Chance of Rain (2009
, OA2): Pianist, based in Portland, OR. Has a previous
Sextet album from 2008; also an Andrew Oliver Kora Band from
2009. Don't recognize anyone on this album, but three members
wrote six of ten songs (to Oliver's four): guitarist Dan Duvall
(3), drummer Kevin Van Geem (2), tenor/soprano saxophonist
Willie Matheis (1). Also playing are Mary-Sue Tobin (soprano/alto
sax, clarinet) and Eric Gruber (bass). Oliver plays some electric
(Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer). Intricate postbop, shows a lot of
ingenuity, quite listenable over the long haul.
Jamie Ousley: Back Home (2010, Tie): Worst
packaging idea of the year: dark green print on black background.
I can't read half the song credits, most of the musicians, or
any of the lyrics. Bassist, studied at University of Miami, is
based in southern Florida. Second album, after O Sorriso
Dela (2008). Musicians listed on front cover are Ira Sullivan
(soprano sax, alto flute), Ed Calle (soprano sax), Phillip Strange
(piano), Larry Marshall (drums); some others appear here and
there, including three singers I've never heard of, and a splash
of strings. Trends toward lushness, which isn't a compliment. I
generally like Sullivan but his alto flute lead on "My Favorite
Things" is my least favorite thing here.
Makoto Ozone/No Name Horses: Jungle (2009 ,
Verve): Pianist, b. 1961 in Kobe, Japan; studied at Berklee 1980-83
before returning to Japan, where he is something of a star. Looks
like he has 25-30 albums, starting with an eponymous one in 1981
and including at least three with his big band No Name Horses.
The band is efficient and effective here, with solid section work,
a few standout solos, and a fair amount of space for Ozone to
remind you of his affection for Oscar Peterson, although the
single thing that I like best about it is the extra dose of
percussion, evidently the work of the only non-Japanese name
I see on the roster: Pernell Saturnino.
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton + Peter Evans: Scenes
in the House of Music (2009 , Clean Feed): Pretty
self-explanatory just given the lineup; recorded live at Casa da
Música -- presumably the concert hall in Porto, Portugal. Cover
lists artists as "Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans" but I thought
I should spell that out even though it seemed obvious. Not sure
how far the trio goes back -- latest Penguin Guide starts with
a 1993 trio, but also lists a Parker-Lytton duo from 1972, and
Parker played on Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra in 1972.
Too much applause on the record, not unwarranted. Parker mostly
plays tenor here, but gives the soprano some credit, and works
in a little circular breathing. Evans' trumpet is secondary but
added splash. He seems to be the serious one in Mostly Other
People Do the Killing, with his solo albums and courting of
giants of the European avant-garde.
William Parker: I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside
Songs of Curtis Mayfield (2001-08 , AUM Fidelity,
2CD): I've been hearing about Parker's Curtis Mayfield project
for the better part of a decade now, and indeed picking through
Rick Lopez's marvelous Parker sessionography I see bootlegs
(label-less CDRs, anyway) from France in 2001 and Boston in
2002, a 2004 radio shot from Rome released as The Inside
Songs of Curtis Mayfield: Live in Rome on Rai Trade in 2007,
with the pace picking up in 2007, most with the same basic group:
Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Darryl Foster (tenor and soprano sax),
Sabir Mateen (alto and tenor sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Parker
(bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), with Leena Conquest singing
and Amiri Baraka poeticizing, with occasional subs along the
way (Guillermo Brown for Drake, Lafayette Gilchrist for Burrell),
and various ad hoc choirs to lift up the vocals. AUM Fidelity
finally rounded up 11 cuts from 6 performances, two 2001-02,
the other four 2007-08. Parker's attraction to Mayfield is easy
enough to see: born in 1952, he would have known the Impressions
when he was growing up and followed Mayfield's solo career from
the moment he started to get serious. Mayfield, in turn, was
the most politically conscious, in the most didactic terms, of
his contemporaries, and Parker has always tended to wear his
politics literally on his sleeve. His literalness tends to win
out here -- he has this "inside songs" concept but he keeps the
surface pretty much intact; occasionally the horns mash up, but
more often he just builds on the joyous bounce of the music and
the voices, and salutes the lyrics like some people salute the
flag. In the hands of a less remarkable musician that may grow
tiring, but here it never does.
A- [Sept. 14]
William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra:
For Percy Heath (2005 , Victo): A record on my
wish list for quite a while now; finally broke down and bought a
copy. Parker's liner notes recall two times he ran into the late
MJQ bassist Percy Heath: the first Heath greated him as "Mr. Iron
Fingers"; the second Parker asked if he could do anything for Heath,
who replied, "No, just keep playing your music." One long piece
here, in four parts. Parker's big band can get pretty unruly, but
a lot of focus on the bass helps rein in the excesses. And when,
as for much of "Part One" they do break out they're ordered enough
to be awesome.
William Parker Organ Quartet: Uncle Joe's Spirit House
(2010, Centering): With Darryl Foster on tenor sax, Cooper-Moore on
organ, Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Parker, of course, on bass. Not
an easy record to pigeonhole. Foster is the least avant of the many
players in Parker's orbit -- he fits into the Curtis Mayfield music
niche nicely, but rarely appears elsewhere, and takes a while getting
his footing here. Cooper-Moore on organ should be interesting, but
isn't -- he neither follows Jimmy Smith or any other known player nor
finds his own way, but part of that may be that with Parker on board
there's no need for the organ to double up on piano and bass duties.
The music is rather straightforward, built out from the bass line,
a steady pulse of life.
William Parker Organ Quartet: Uncle Joe's Spirit House
[was: B+(***)] B+(**)
Ivo Perelman/Rosie Hertlein/Dominic Duval: Near to the Wild
Heart (2009 , Not Two): Tenor sax, violin, acoustic
bass, respectively. Perelman has been on a run lately, with the first
three of a batch of five new records rated A- hereabouts. Duval is
a hard-working free jazzer who shows up a lot in the Cadence/CIMP
orbit. Don't have any bio on Hertlein, but she has one album on CIMP
(Two Letters I'll Keep), side credits on previous albums by
Perelman, Duval, Trio X (Joe McPhee), Joe Giardullo, and Rozanne
Levine; some credits include vocals, and there are some uncredited
vocals here, most likely hers. Some of this music is very inventive,
but the violin keeps returning to a screech that grates on my ears,
the bass tends to wrap the music up like a clinging vine rather than
setting it free, reducing the saxophone to coloring in.
Ivo Perelman/Brian Willson: The Stream of Life
(2008 , Leo): The fifth of this year's batch of new albums
from the Brazilian tenor saxophonist, a duo with drummer Willson
(name spelled correctly this time), cut about the same time as
the trio Mind Games with bassist Dominic Duval. I'll have
to do a final sort on four of the five albums when I wrap up JCG,
but for now this is a bare notch below the other three. Without
the bass, this should open up a bit, and there are some superb
stretches when that happens, but a bass would take a bit of the
raw edge off the sax, which can grate here. Willson's drumming
doesn't explode, although he does help out.
Houston Person: Moment to Moment (2010, High Note):
A tenor saxophonist, Person is the proper successor if not to Ben
Webster at least to Stanley Turrentine. He can bop when it wants
to, can't help but swing, blows pristine ballads, and has a knack
for slipping the right riff behind a singer. He's been doing this
for 40-plus years now, but while he doesn't exactly fold up here,
he's rarely made an album that makes so little of his talents. It
doesn't help that he yields so much space to trumpeter Terrell
Stafford, but it's probably more the fault of a lackadaisical
rhythm section. Or maybe fault isn't the point: the record has
its share of tasty moments but comes off as lazy in the end, not
so much because no one tried as because nothing much happened
The Pizzarelli Boys: Desert Island Dreamers (2009
, Arbors): Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and family, sons John
(guitar, vocals), and Martin (bass), with Larry Fuller (piano),
Aaron Weinstein (violin), and Tony Tedesco (drums), plus a Jessica
Molaskey vocal at the end ("Danny Boy"). Second album under this
moniker, sandwiched around their PIZZArelli Party with lots
of Arbors All-Stars, although Bucky and John have a bunch of duets,
Martin has been sitting in with either or both, and Weinstein's
practically adopted. Gentle swing, mostly coddling standards that
aren't up for anything harder -- "Over the Rainbow" is a nice one;
"Stairway to Heaven" barely kicks into second gear, and "Danny
Boy" is even slower.
"Buck" Pizzarelli and the West Texas Tumbleweeds: Diggin'
Up Bones (2009, Arbors): Bucky, of course, the most
straightforward of the nicknames the band adopted -- his sons
"Rusty Pickins" and "Marty Moose," along with fellow travelers
like Hoss [Aaron] Weinstein and Dusty Spurs [Tommy] White. Leans
toward western swing, starting up with "Right or Wrong" and
returning now and then, but also picking up "Your Cheating
Heart" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Act Naturally" and
"Promised Land." Three Pizzarelli originals -- probably John's,
who sings the witty "Ain't Oklahoma Pretty." Rebecca Kilgore
leads with six vocals, Andy Levas five, and Joe West two, and
Jessica Molaskey fills in some background. Lots of fiddle and
pedal steel in this Jersey hoedown. Group has an encore not up
yet, called -- what else? -- Back in the Saddle Again.
Odean Pope: Plant Life (2008, Porter): Luke
Mosling started Porter Records hoping to reissue some favorite
LPs, with Byard Lancaster a touchstone, which led him to another
Philly group, Catalyst, and its saxophonist, a young Odean Pope.
That in turn led to a couple of relatively recent Pope trios --
I sort of imagine that these were tapes on the shelf rather than
new projects. First one out was two 1995-2000 trios, What Went
Before: Volume 1, which is what I thought I was listening to --
even wrote a little review. Then I moved on to a second trio album,
Plant Life, and found . . . that it had the
exact same song lineup, including two written by "Murray." As it
happens, the drummer here is Sunny Murray, with Lee Smith on bass.
A formidable sax player, of course. But this is getting to be a
sloppy music service.
Odean Pope: Odean's List (2009 , In+Out):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938 in North Carolina, twentieth album
since 1980. Likes to work with extra sax players, often under
the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir rubric. He's joined here with
two other saxophonists (James Carter and Walter Blanding), two
trumpets (David Weiss and Terrell Stafford), piano, bass and
drums. Impressive in spots, especially if you like your sax
Debbie Poryes Quartet: Catch Your Breath (2009
, OA2): Pianist, from Berkeley, CA, spent the 1980s in the
Netherlands with one record on a Dutch label (Timeless) from
1982; has a second record in 2007, and now this one. Wrote 4
of 9 songs, covering Berlin, Rodgers/Hart, Cahn, Sonny Clark,
and Lennon/McCartney (an exceptionally nice "Here, There &
Everywhere"). Quartet includes Bruce Williamson on sax (alto
and soprano), Bill Douglass bass, and David Rokeach drums.
Very pleasant little album.
Prester John: Desire for a Straight Line (2010,
Innova): Duo, with Shawn Persinger on acoustic guitar, David Miller
on mandolin. Group name comes from the mediaeval legend, something
about a Christian king who lost his nation to the muslims or the
Mongols or some such. Music has a mediaevalist flair to it, dense
and sometimes monotonous. Persinger has a previous record called
The Art of Modern/Primitive Guitar -- title sums up what
he's working for.
Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys: Betweenwhile
(2010, AUM Fidelity): Drummer, from Portlane, ME; based in New York.
First album with name up front; also has a duo with Jon Irabagon,
some odd side credits like the record with Talibam! This is a
quartet with Darius Jones on alto sax, Alexic Marcelo on piano,
and Peter Bitenc on bass. Each gets feature spots but they play
so differently it isn't clear what the point is. Jones is coming
off a terrific debut album, and has much more to add here, when
he gets the chance.
Puttin' On the Ritz: White Light/White Heat
(2010, Hot Cup): B.J. Rubin dates his relationship to the music
of the Velvet Underground to 1999, about 25 years after I fell
hard for their four studio albums, so I can sort of relate but
also tend to be hypercritical. He talks his way through "The
Gift" and sings, if you can call it that, "White Light/White
Heat," "Lady Godiva's Operation," "Here She Comes Now," "I
Heard Her Call My Name," and "Sister Ray." His partner is
MOPTDK drummer Kevin Shea, whose other side project is a
tasteless duo with Matt Mottel -- credited here on Turkish
organ -- called Talibam! MOPDTK mainstays Moppa Elliott and
Jon Irabagon add some noise, as do fellow travellers Nate
Wooley (trumpet) and Sam Kulik (trombone, bass trombone).
The horns aren't without interest, but only on "Sister Ray"
does the music salvage the vocal.
Puttin' on the Ritz: White Light/White Heat (2010,
[was: B-] C+
Steve Raegele: Last Century (2009 ,
Songlines): Canadian guitarist, b. 1975 in Ottawa, based in
Montreal. First album, a trio with Miles Perkin on bass and
Thom Gossage on drums and kalimba. Prickly, abstract, even
though one song is named "Janet Jackson" ("some fairly
pandiatonic stuff around D"), feels improv (although only
one joint title) with no special interest in line building.
Intriguing when I manage to tune in.
Marc Ribot: Silent Movies (2009 , Pi):
Solo guitar, with Ribot switching to vibes on one track, and
Keefus Ciancia credited with "soundscapes" on 5 (of 13). In the
liner notes Ribot says that Blind Movies would have been
a better title "but that wasn't as catchy" -- maybe someone
should have added "or clichéd"? The music isn't clichéd, but
it does fall into the ambient rut that swallows up so many
B+(**) [Sept. 28]
Jason Robinson/Anthony Davis: Cerulean Landscapes
(2008 , Clean Feed): Saxophone-piano duo. Robinson plays
soprano, alto, and tenor sax, and alto flute. Web bio identifies
him as American, but that's about it. [Let's see: San Diego, UCSD.]
Has half a dozen albums since 1998, two new ones (not in my cache)
out since this one dropped in September -- The Two Faces of
Janus (Cuneiform), and Cerberus Reigning (Accretions).
I've also run across him in the group Cosmologic. Davis goes back
further; b. 1951 Patterson NJ, recorded for India Navigation and
Gramavision 1978-90, shows up on a couple albums I've heard by
David Murray and String Trio of New York -- a serious pianist I
never much got into. AMG lists nothing by him since 1993. Teaches
at UCSD, where Robinson was a student. Both players specialize
in fancy abstractions, which given the limited pallette and
rhythm makes for rough going.
Jason Robinson: Cerberus Reigning (2010, Accretions):
Solo tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute, and computer, "recorded in
real time with no overdubs or edits," so the parts that threw me were
probably the computer's fault, although I'd also credit the computer
in varying the sound, especially given how wearing an hour of soprano
sax can be.
Jason Robinson: The Two Faces of Janus (2009 ,
Cuneiform): Tenor sax, soprano sax, alto flute, this time in front
of a group -- Liberty Ellman splendid on guitar, Drew Gress on bass,
and George Schuller on drums -- with two alto saxophone guests for
intricate interplay: Rudresh Mahanthappa on 3 cuts, Marty Ehrlich
on 5 including some bass clarinet. Two cuts have both. Two cuts
have just Robinson and Ehrlich with the band dropping out. Results
are varied, some superb, others disorienting.
Perry Robinson Trio: From A to Z (2008 ,
Jazzwerkstatt): Clarinettist, b. 1938, produce a remarkable quartet
album in 1962, Funk Dumpling (with Kenny Barron, Henry Grimes,
and Paul Motian), leans avant-garde but has also played a lot of
klezmer. Has a very spotty discography, not much more than a dozen
albums in early 50 years, so every new one is filled with promise.
This is a trio, with Ed Schuller on bass and Ernst Bier on drums.
Remarkable in spots, although occasional drops into vocalizations
are less appealing and more confusing.
Florian Ross: Mechanism (2009 , Pirouet):
Pianist, b. 1972, based in Köln, Germany; looks like he has eight
albums since 1998. This one is a solo, fifteen originals out of
seventeen pieces, the two covers things I've probably heard but
don't readily recognize. Nice record, altough there's not much
I can really relate to.
Adam Rudolph/Ralph Jones: Yčyí (2009 , Meta):
Rudolph is a percussionist, b. 1955, tends toward African riddims,
playing djembe, frame drum, glockenspiel, melodica, thumb piano,
sintir, and zabumba here. Early work included Shadowfax and Foday
Musa Suso, and Yusef Lateef has been a frequent collaborator. Jones
plays various flutes (bamboo, alto, ney), bass clarinet, and soprano
and tenor sax. Intriguing exotica, loose and spare but holds together
Catherine Russell: Inside This Heart of Mine (2009
, World Village): Singer, third album since 2006. Can't find
a source listing her age, but her father was legendary band leader
Luis Russell (1902-63) -- his 1929-30 Savoy Shout (JSP) is
one of the essential jazz records of the era, with the 2-CD 1929-34
The Luis Russell Story (Retrieval) equally recommended, and
he maintained a relationship with his star trumpeter Louis Armstrong
long after he stopped recording. Hard to work out the math here. She
makes an effort to search out old songs -- "All the Cats Join In,"
"Struttin' With Some Barbeque" -- but they don't sound especially
old, even with thoughtful swing-oriented musicians like John Allred
and Dan Block in the band.
Jerome Sabbagh/Ben Monder/Daniel Humair: I Will Follow
You (2010, Bee Jazz): Tenor/soprano sax, guitar, drums,
respectively. Monder is a guitarist who shows up on a lot of
records (6-10 per year since 2000, smaller number going back to
1991). Humair's credits go back to 1960 -- he was b. 1938 in
Switzerland -- and fill three pages at AMG, with more than a
dozen under his own name. Sabbagh is (much) younger, b. 1973
in Paris, with three previous records since 2004. Plays tenor
and soprano sax, and wrote almost everything here (with some
help from his bandmates). Monder strikes me as unusually
aggressive here, like he has a big stake in the outcome.
Sabbagh is the opposite, so thoughtful as this is it does
tend to drag a bit.
B+(*) [advance: Dec. 7]
Robert Sadin: Art of Love: Music of Machaut (2009,
Deutsche Grammophon): Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor, got a taste
of jazz when he arranged and produced Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's
World, which here he uses mostly for networking. The music is
medieval, from French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377),
done with modern instruments and enough guests to clutter up a Herbie
Hancock record, although they're not exactly clutter here. Actually,
they're very circumspect, which makes this package rather static,
hard to hear and hard to get into -- it really matters very little
whether the singer is Milton Nascimento, Hassan Hakmoun, Madeleine
Peyroux, Natalie Merchant, Jasmine Thomas, Celena Shafer, or Sadin
himself. Same for a long list of instrumentalists, from the reeds
(Seamus Blake, John Ellis) to the guitars (Lionel Loueke, Romero
Lubambo) to the beatless percussionists (Dan Weiss, Cyro Baptista).
My package is dubbed a "press kit" -- a box with a fat booklet
and red wrapping paper around a thin foldout card with a button
for the CD. Don't know about the actual product.
Thomas Savy: French Suite (2009 ,
Plus Loin Music): Bass clarinetist, from France, second album,
a trio with Scott Colley on bass and Bill Stewart on drums.
Suite runs through seven parts, followed by Ellington's "Come
Sunday," an extra bit from the suite, and Coltrane's "Lonnie's
Lament." Packaging is oversized.
Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri):
Baritone saxophonist, b. 1978 in Sioux City, IA; based in LA. I'm
pretty sure he's not the Hollywood producer/exec producer of the
same name, although AMG credits him with producing some of the
producer's soundtracks. Credits with Clark Terry, Benny Wallace,
Anthony Wilson, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra are more
credible, especially the latter since John Clayton (bass) and
Jeff Hamilton (drums) anchor the quartet here. First album, two
originals to nine covers, impeccable standards with Quincy Jones
the newest composer. Quartet is rounded out with guitarist Graham
Dechter, whose sweet tone contrasts nicely to the big horn, and
who slides right into the dominant swing idiom. Nice and simple
album, the bari a little awkward but perfect when the notes match.
So down my alley I may not be grading it below my true feelings.
Louis Sclavis/Craig Taborn/Tom Rainey: Eldorado Trio
(2009 , Clean Feed): The eminent French clarinetist is credited
here with soprano sax and bass clarinet; Taborn with piano and Fender
Rhodes; Rainey with drums. Two pieces are joint improvs; the rest
come from Sclavis's songbook. Feels kind of jumbled together, the
sort of thing jazz musicians do on the spot, sparking strong solos
and occasional mismatches.
Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem: Purcor (2008 ,
ECM): Norwegian saxophonist (tenor, soprano), has been on ECM since
the late 1990s. Utnem plays piano, and these are straightforward
duets, some improvised, some based on Norwegian folk songs. They
grab you right away, but the record does run a little long.
Benny Sharoni: Eternal Elixir (2008 , Papaya):
Tenor saxophonist, from Israel, parents from Yemen and Chile (which
he credits for a little Latin tinge), moved to US in 1986 to study
at Berklee; based in Boston. First album. a mainstream affair with
trumpet, piano, guitar, bass and drums. Wrote 4 of 10 cuts -- the
only cover I instantly recognize is "Sunny." Big sound, swings hard.
Aaron Shelton Quartet: These Times (2009
, Singlespeed Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays
clarinet, b. 1976, based in Chicago then Oakland, has two
previous albums under his name since 2005, plus a pretty
good one as Ton Trio. Quartet includes a second sax -- Keefe
Jackson on tenor -- plus Anton Hatwich bass and Marc Riordan
drums. At times, the sax sparring is worthy of Ammons and
Stitt, updated with a more flexible rhythm section, though
not everything is that frisky.
Gwilym Simcock: Blues Vignette (2009 ,
Basho, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1981 in Bangor, Gwynedd (northwest
Wales), UK. Second album, a big one divided into "Solo/Duo"
and "Trio" discs: the duo is a 21-minute "Suite for Cello and
Piano" with Cara Berridge on cello, following 48 minutes of
solo; the trio adds Yuri Goloboubev (bass) and James Maddren
(drums). A lot to swallow here, and I don't really feel up to
it. As if often the case, the few covers are easier to figure
out than the originals. In particular, the solo disc includes
a very interesting deconstruction of "On Broadway" which
barely hints at a melody so catchy it invariably sticks with
you for hours.
Ches Smith & These Arches: Finally Out of My Hands
(2010, Skirl): Drummer, from San Diego, CA, has more than 30 credits
since 2001, two or thre with his name up front. This is a quartet with
Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Mary Halvorson (guitar), and Andrea Parkins
(accordion, organ, electronics). That's a talented but combustible
group, and sometimes I wonder if Smith isn't more into mischief than
music here: I go up and down on the record moment to moment.
Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun
Drummer (1986 , Kabell): Trumpet/drums duets, from
the vaults. Not sure what it is about Blackwell that holds this so
together. But Smith is exceptionally sharp, not that it hurts much
when he wanders, as when he plays flute or mibira, or sings.
Nadav Snir-Zelniker Trio: Thinking Out Loud (2009
, OA2): Drummer, b. 1974 in Israel, based in New York. First
album, a piano trio with Ted Rosenthal and Todd Coolman on bass.
Wrote (or co-wrote) 3 of 10 songs, two more songs most likely by
Israelis, the balance ranging from "Blue Skies" to "Isfahan" to
"Interplay" (Bill Evans) plus one by Rosenthal. I have no doubts
about the drums, and Coolman is a dependable bassist, but the
record inevitably turns on the piano, and somehow Rosenthal had
escaped my attention all these years. Did recognize the name: he
was one of those mainstream pianists Concord adored in the early
1990s, so his name showed up on the Maybeck Recital Hall
Series list (Vol. 38). B. 1959, has more than a dozen
albums since 1989, including one on The 3 B's -- Bud, Bill,
someone named Beethoven. Don't know about the latter, but he has
a nice mix of Bud and Bill in his playing.
Moe! Staiano's Moe!kestra!: 2 Rooms of Uranium in 83 Markers:
Conducted Improvisations, Vol. II (2003-04 , Edgetone):
Percussionist, b. 1973 in New York, based in Bay Area; works with found
objects, some attached to drum kit ("prepared drums"). This is his third
Moe!kestra! album, consists of two pieces of Butch Morris-style conducted
improvisation using twenty-some Bay Area mostly-jazz musicians -- a few
I recognize because I backed into this researching Lisa Mezzacappa's
quartet. Doesn't feel like jazz instrumentation even though a fair
number of horns are credited. More like industrial machinery slogging
erratically toward doom -- which is sort of interesting.
Mary Stallings: Dream (2010, High Note): Singer,
b. 1939, had a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 but otherwise her
discography starts in 1990, with four records on Concord, one on
MaxJazz, and now two on High Note. AMG describes her as "greatly
influenced by Carmen McRae" -- that at least captures her tone,
her precise sense of style and focus on interpretation. I first
heard her on Remember Love in 2005 and was blown away,
but just sort of drags its way through a list of songs that have
seen better days -- not even "That Old Black Magic" has much
spark. Eric Reed arranged and plays piano, with just bass and
drums -- previous record has Geri Allen in that role, and she
brought in Wallace Roney, Vincent Herring, and Frank Wess, and
for that matter Billy Hart on drums.
Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: Three Kinds of Happiness
(2009 , Not Two): Bass clarinetist, one of the few specialists
around, b. 1976, based in Chicago, first showed up in Ken Vandermark's
Bridge 61 group where he was utterly demolished, but keeps plugging
away at it, and is getting better. Trio with Jason Roebke on bass and
Mike Pride on drums, a good group that keeps him up front and makes
him work. Horn doesn't have the sharp edge of a sax, but there's
nothing dull about his thinking.
Grant Stewart: Around the Corner (2010, Sharp Nine):
Retro tenors saxophonist, b. 1971, close to a dozen albums since
1992, has developed a very clean sound, easy swinging, especially
with Peter Washington on bass, Phil Stewart on drums, and Peter
Bernstein on guitar. He's never swept me away like Scott Hamilton
or Harry Allen, but this is a very steady, quite likable album --
good showcase for Bernstein too.
Nobu Stowe: Confusion Bleue (2007 , Soul Note):
Pianist, from Japan, based in Baltimore. He sent me about six albums
dating back to 2006, and I've been remiss in getting to them. This is
the most recent, the one I figured I should focus on, and it's been
tough to get a handle on. Quartet with two looks, depending on whether
Ros Bonadonna plays guitar or alto sax. The former steers this in a
fusion direction, a configuration of unruly grooves, while the latter
lets the piano undercut the sax pressure. With Tyler Goodwin on bass
and Ray Sage on drums. Intriguing record. Should return to it when I
get around to the others.
Helen Sung: Going Express (2009 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, from Houston, TX; based in New York. Third album, going
more mainstream and becoming less interesting. Seamus Blake plays
tenor and soprano sax, Lonnie Plaxico bass, Eric Harland drums,
a solid group, especially on tracks with a little lift like "Love
for Sale" and "In Walked Bud."
Richard Sussman Quintet: Live at Sweet Rhythm
(2003 , Origin): Pianist, b. 1946, cut two albums 1978-80,
now this one; meanwhile has taught at Manhattan School of Music
since 1986. The quintet here is also called the Free Fall Reunion
Band: Free Fall was Sussman's 1978 album. This album
reunites the band (minus Larry Schneider): Tom Harrell (trumpet),
Jerry Bergonzi (tenor sax), Mike Richmond (bass), and Jeff
Williams (drums). Fairly mainstream postbop, with sharp horn
players not all that well heard.
Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (2010, Ben Syversen):
Trumpet player, b. 1983, based in Brooklyn; first album, a trio
with Xander Naylor on guitar and Jeremy Gustin on drums. Syversen
cites Tim Berne, Ellery Eskelin, and Jim Black for ideas, as well
as "seminal punk bands such as Black Flag, twisted takes on Americana,
and sly, just beneath the surface references to Eastern European folk
music." There seem to be a lot of young guys like that coming up,
with the MOPDTK gang on the more scholarly end of the spectrum,
with this on the more punkish end. The jumbled riddims and guitar
noise are exhilarating, but even the one where they slow it down
gives you pause for thought.
Sándor Szabó/Kevin Kastning: Returning (2008 ,
Greydisc): Hungarian guitar duo; no bio on Kastning other than that
he lives in Budapest, has a 1988 album as The Kevin Kastning Unit,
several more as Kastning Siegfried, and four now with Szabó. Szabó
was born in 1956, has a healthy discography starting with an album
on Leo in 1986. Both play 12-string guitars: Szabó a baritone,
Kastning switching between an extended baritone, an alto in G,
and a 6-string bass-baritone. They work carefully, getting a
subtly metallic picked note sound. Could be major subjects for
further research if I was that much into guitar.
Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone):
Group's MySpace website explains: "We are not TAR BABY ...... JAZZ
is ..... We simply want to hug him for as long as we live." Site
lists (in this order) band members as: Nasheet Waits (drums),
Stacey Dillard (sax), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass),
but Dillard doesn't appear on this, the group's first record.
Instead, we have "special guests" JD Allen (tenor sax), Oliver
Lake (alto sax), and Nicholas Payton (trumpet). Two group songs,
two from Revis, one each from Evans and Waits, one from Lake,
outside pieces from Sam Rivers, Bad Brains, Fats Waller, Andrew
Hill, and Paul Motian. With Dillard this would have been a tough
postbop group, but with Lake and Allen it's something else, and
they bring out a dimension in Evans I've never heard before.
Benjamin Taubkin: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series,
Vol. I (2007 , Adventure Music): Cover also follows
Taubkin's name with the qualification "[brazil]" but we know that,
right? Solo piano, something that rolls off my back without ever
fully engaging me -- a big contrast I have with the auteurs of
The Penguin Guide to Jazz, who invariably dote on solo
piano recordings. Brazilian jazz is dominated by guitarists, but
Taubkin is a well-established and worthy pianist. All originals
except for "Giant Steps" and one by Pixinguinha.
Dan Tepfer Trio: Five Pedals Deep (2010, Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1982, in France but parents American. Looks like fourth
album since 2004 -- AMG lists three, and missed one called Twelve
Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009, DIZ). Only one I've
heard is a duo with Lee Konitz last year, which made my HM list.
Trio includes Thomas Morgan on bass and Ted Poor on drums. Couldn't
follow this closely (my fault) but parts were dazzling, and the
closing coda from "Body and Soul" ended things on a nice note.
Will return later.
Jacky Terrasson: Push (2009 , Concord):
Pianist, b. 1966 in Berlin, Germany; mother American, father
French; studied at Berklee, based now in New York. Twelfth
album since 1994, when he debuted as one of Blue Note's big
piano finds. He's one of those pianists I haven't paid much
attention to, and haven't gotten much out of when I did, but
he's pretty upbeat here, and the trio pieces are bright and
lively. The guests are less of a blessing, not that there's
anything wrong with Jacques Schwarz-Bart's tenor sax piece,
or the two with Gregoire Maret's harmonica -- they sort of
fall off the table as odds and ends. Terrasson sings a bit,
and that's forgettable too.
Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast: It Would Be Easier If
(2009 , Intuition): Plays bass clarinet and alto sax here,
probably other clarinets and saxes elsewhere. Based in Brooklyn.
First album, but was a key figure in Gutbucket with four albums
2001-09. Group: Russ Johnson (trumpet), Nir Felder (guitar), Adam
Armstrong (bass), Fred Kennedy (drums, electronics). Starts slow;
eventually speeds up. No surprise which is better.
Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To: Volume II
(2008 , Pi): Same setup, probably same session, as Volume
I, which came out a year ago and swept most critics although
the flute and some dull spots left it down on my HM list. Threadgill
is again credited with flute over alto sax, although it nags me
less here. The group has an interesting balance: Liberty Ellman
(guitar), Jose Davila (trombone and tuba), Stomu Takeishi (bass
guitar), and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). Mostly works off the
tension between Ellman and Takeishi, with Davila cavorting around
the margins. Threadgill's flute adds slightly to the mischief; his
alto sax blows it to another level altogether.
Steve Turre: Delicious and Delightful (2010,
High Note): Finally heard the conch shell, not to mention a
whole lot of Billy Harper.
[was: B+(**)] B+(***)
Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash: Heavensabove! (2008
, Challenge Jazz): Dutch trumpet player, a steady producer
with over a dozen albums since 1996. Postbop player, increasingly
given to electronics, here in a quartet with electric keyboards
(Jeroen Van Vliet) and basses (Gulli Gudmundsson) and effects
everywhere except for drummer Jasper Van Hulten, who could use
Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (2005
, Valid): Can't find any bio for Wagner -- empty page on
his website, empty section on MySpace -- but he plays clarinet,
tenor and soprano sax, is based in New Orleans, has four trio
records since 2001, only this one with Drake and Ozaki. Needless
to say, Drake is a huge pickup, his frame drums providing a soft
rumble that blends especially well with Wagner's clarinet. The
sax stretches, and the drum kit, are louder, less exceptional,
but still invigorating free jazz.
Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (2005
, Valid): Couldn't find any bio on Wagner when I reviewed
this, so Benjamin Lyons sent one in. B. 1968 in Okemos, MI;
studied at DePaul in Chicago; moved to New Orleans 1992, where
he stayed until moving on to Brooklyn in 2005, but reportedly
still plays more in New Orleans than New York. Plays clarinet,
tenor and soprano sax in this eminent trio.
Myron Walden: Countryfied (2010, Demi Sound):
Mainstream tenor saxophonist, dips back into his blues bag,
with guitarist Oz Noy doing most of the heavy lifting.
Greg Ward's Fitted Shards: South Side Story (2010,
19-8): Alto saxophonist, b. 1982, based in New York -- I would have
guessed Chicago, which among other things has a South Side. First
album, a quartet with Rob Clearfield on keybs, Jeff Greene on bass,
and Quin Kirchner on bass. Has played with Mike Reed, Charles Rumback,
and in the group Blink (along with Greene and Kirchner -- their
MySpace page puts them in Chicago). Terrific saxophonist when he
breaks out, but this tends to get mired in a sickly postbop mode,
which I blame on the keyb -- suppose it's intended as a fusion move?
David S. Ware: Onecept (2009 , AUM Fidelity):
Given a new lease on life thanks to a kidney transplant, Ware's
comeback was a solo concert album cut in October 2009. A couple
of months later he got back to the studio, with the stritch and
saxello he added to his tenor sax arsenal. The addition of bass
(William Parker) and drums (Warren Smith) fleshes out a sound
that was pretty impressive solo. At this stage he's pretty close
to automatic. I recall a while back praising Edwin Bayard as
sounding like a young David S. Ware. This record makes that
comparison seem silly, and makes me nervous having put Bayard's
record near the top of my year-in-progress list. Only one play,
so consider this grade the floor.
A- [Sept. 14]
Tim Warfield: A Sentimental Journey (2010, Criss
Cross): One of the "tough young tenors" to emerge in the 1990s, I
thought his first few records were terrific, but then he came up
empty between 2002 and his 2007 Shirley Scott tribute, which he
basically rehashes here, on his sixth album since 1995. Terrell
Stafford gives him a competitive trumpet, Pat Bianchi cranks up
the organ, and Byron Landham is the drummer. The intro to the
first/title song starts in a weird sonic ditch, which is not the
last time Warfield has trouble making himself heard. Only Stafford
seems to be able to break out of the malaise.
Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band: Fields of Moons
(2009 , Jazzheads): Trombone player (also tuba), based in New
York, where he's the New York end of the Norway/Denmark postbop group
NYNDK. SYOTOS is nominally a Latin jazz band, an octet, with four
records to date. The Latin focus isn't especially strong -- mostly
the extra percussion and Leo Travera's electric bass, and sometimes
the brass -- John Walsh's trumpet joins Washburne, although more
prominent (and less Latin) is NYNDK saxophonist Ole Mathisen. Closes
with a sweet "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans."
Doug Webb: Midnight (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, album only specifies "saxophones" and he's got a
picture on his bio page of dozens of them but I figure him for
a tenor man. Born in Chicago, studied at Berklee, lives in Los
Angeles; no dates on any of this but photo suggests a little
gray around the roots, and he claims to have "been featured
on over 150 jazz recordings" -- undoubtedly the most famous
was dubbing Lisa Simpson's saxophone. First record under his
own name, but he also has four credited to the Mat Marucci/Doug
Web Trio on Cadence/CIMP, so presumably has an avant streak not
present here. This is a mainstream standards quartet, with Larry
Goldings neat and prim on piano, Stanley Clarke dutiful on bass,
and Gerry Gibbs on drums. "Try a Little Tenderness," "I'll Be
Around," "Fly Me to the Moon," "You Go to My Head"; others more
obscure, no big name songwriters other than Charlie Parker
("Quasimodo"). Lovely stuff, the sort of thing I'm a sucker
for and may wind up underrating because it seems so normal.
Kenny Werner: No Beginning No End (2009 ,
Half Note): Initially a commission for a composition to celebrate
Bradford Endicott's 80th birthday, took a sudden turn when Werner's
daughter was killed in a car accident. Front cover credit continues:
"featuring Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano with Woodwinds, Voices &
Strings." The latter come from the MIT Wind Ensemble, conducted by
Fred Harris Jr., their credits comprising about four booklet pages.
The booklet includes a number of family photos tracing daughter
Katheryn from baby to young woman, lyrics, notes, credits. I don't
doubt that this is all profoundly moving once you get into it, but
I find the maudlin music unlistenable when sung and uninteresting
otherwise -- although there is a poignant stretch at the end when
Werner's piano is isolated against faint waves of harp.
Randy Weston and His African Rhythms Sextet: The Storyteller
(2009 , Motéma Music): Pianist, b. 1926, cut his first record in
1954 and has recorded steadily ever since, excepting a tough spot 1977-88,
and a couple years before this one. Developed an interest in Africa by
1960 which has only broadened and deepened. This was cut live, with T.K.
Blue (flute, sax), Benny Powell (trombone), Alex Blake (bass), Lewis Nash
(drums), and Neil Clarke (percussion). Long solo piano intro on the first
piece, which eventually erupts into a joyous Cuban thing. Not familiar
with Blue, but he has nice turns on both instruments. Powell, who's only
a couple years younger than Weston, has a poignant solo but not a lot of
power. Not sure what I think of the piano interludes, but the ensemble
work is delightful.
Jessica Williams: Touch (2010, Origin):
Another solo piano album -- I've lost count of how many she
has, but a half-dozen would be a conservative guess, and ten
hardly an outer bound. She comments in the liner notes that
she no longer pounds "the piano like it was a set of drums";
good chance I liked those albums better than these, but that's
me. Live set, half originals plus "I Loves You Porgy," "I
Cover the Waterfront," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," and one from
Bruce Williamson Quartet: Standard Transmission
(2009 , Origin): Alto saxophonist (also soprano sax, flute,
bass clarinet), cut an album in 1992 called Big City Magic,
and his this is his second, plus a couple of side credits per year
since 1989. Pianist Art Lande gets a "featuring" on the front cover
and kicks off the first song; Peter Barshay (bass) and Alan Hall
complete the quartet. Mainstream, a bit on the lush side. One
original, a couple of mash-ups (e.g., "Misterioso" + "How High
the Moon" = "Mysterious Moon"), mostly covers. Very nice "Nature
Boy" with Williamson on soprano sax; flute feature ("The Touch of
Your Lips") also well done. Arrangements split between Williamson
Cassandra Wilson: Silver Pony (2010, Blue Note):
Billed as "a unique hybrid live/studio album" -- whatever that means.
My suspicion is that it's one where they're too lazy to commit to
either. Three originals, scattered covers, an anonymous-sounding
band, some guests. Her quiet delivery works nicely on some tracks,
but doesn't deliver the whole album.
Sarah Wilson: Trapeze Project (2009 , Brass
Logic): Trumpet player, sings some, from California, studied anthropology
at UC Berkeley, based in Bay Area. Second album, following Music
for an Imaginary Play (2006). Group includes Myra Melford (piano),
Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Jerome Harris (bass), and Scott Amendola
(drums). Both Melford and Goldberg have some remarkable solo turns.
Trumpet less distinctive, and her vocals are rather deadpan, about
right for "Love Will Tear Us Apart" -- a smart choice.
Norma Winstone: Stories Yet to Tell (2009 ,
ECM): Vocalist, b. 1941 in London, came up in avant-jazz circles
(married John Taylor; joined Taylor and Kenny Wheeler in Azimuth),
although her voice is more the classical soprano. Her 1971 record,
Edge of Time, is especially well regarded, but I've missed
it and most of her discography. This draws from old folk repertoire
(13th century troubadour song, 16th century Mainerio, the ever
reliable "trad"), also puts lyrics to Wayne Shorter and Maria
Schneider, and picks up a Dor Caymmi song. Glauco Venier plays
piano, Klaus Gesing bass clarinet and soprano sax, for an intimate
chamber effect. Singer is impeccable.
Robert Wyatt/Gilad Atzmon/Ros Stephen: For the Ghosts
Within (2010, Domino): I used to think I was as big a fan
of Robert Wyatt as anyone, but I haven't responded well to his
albums since Shleep (1997) or maybe even Dondestan
(1991), while there are others -- especially toiling for the UK
magazine The Wire -- who still adore everything he does.
His voice has grown creakier (not to mention croakier); even at
his most charming, his voice was never far from triggering an
intense adverse reaction. And his arrangements have gotten ever
lazier -- here they've been given over to violinist Stephen and
reedist Atzmon. While Atzmon does a lovely job, the strings can
rub my nerves raw. Wyatt has a hand in two credits, Atzmon two
(one with a Palestinian rap), Stephen one; otherwise these are
mostly slow, obvious ballads: "Laura," "Round Midnight," "In a
Sentimental Mood," "Lush Life," "At Last I Am Free," "What a
Wonderful World." Of those, "Lush Life" is quite remarkable,
and "At Last I Am Free" is anthemic (although I could swear he's
done it before).
Katherine Young: Further Secret Origins (2009,
Porter): Bassoonist, studied at Oberlin and Wesleyan, played
in Anthony Braxton's Falling River Quartet, based in Brooklyn,
credits this solo album as her debut. Seems to include some
electronics, but the bassoon dominates, ugly and unwieldy, a
record that first reminds one of For Alto but can't
sustain the horror -- maybe doesn't even want to. Parts to
start to develop a hypnotic groove, but that, too, is hard
Denny Zeitlin: Precipice (2008 , Sunnyside):
I'm not good with solo piano, and I'm in no shape to sort this
one out right now, but I can't just dismiss it either. Zeitlin
is in his 70s, has had a long career making small scale piano
albums -- solos, duos, a lot of trios. I've only heard a few --
notably missing his Columbia sessions from the 1960s which were
wrapped up neatly in a 3-CD Mosaic Select box last year.
Never found an album I can flat out recommend, but never been
Denny Zeitlin: Precipice (2008 , Sunnyside):
Solo piano, took a while to kick in this time but he's an impressive,
thoughtful player, able to dig a lot out of the instrument.
Ziggurat Quartet: Calculated Gestures (2009 ,
Origin): Seattle group: Eric Barber (tenor & soprano sax), Bill
Anschell (piano), Doug Miller (bass), Byron Vannoy (drums, percussion).
First album together, although Anschell has a half dozen records under
his own name, and Barber and Miller have one each. Anschell has the
edge in writing, with four songs to three each for Barber and Miller.
But Barber is the one you listen to, with enough energy to break out
of the usual postbop straitjackets. Name suggests some Afro-Asian
mystery, and there's some of that too.
Michael Zilber: The Billy Collins Project: Eleven on
Turning Ten (2007 , OA2): Saxophonist (soprano,
tenor), web bio pretty much useless, seems to have grown up in
Vancouver, moved to Boston to study at New England Conservatory
and Tufts, on to New York, winding up in California -- this
record was recorded in San Jose. Seventh album since 1986,
counting one with Steve Smith and another with Dave Liebman
listed first. Billy Collins was US Poet Laureate 2001-03;
has fifteen volumes since 1977, but I can't say I've ever
heard of him, much less read him. Zilber's project was to
take eleven Collins poems and set them to music. As is so
often the case, constructing melodies for cadences winds up
feeling awkward, and Andy Kirshner's dry voice doesn't help
matters. With John R. Burr on piano, John Schifflett on
bass, and Jason Lewis on drums/percussion.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- Aida Severo (2007 , Slam) B+(***)
- Remi Álvarez/Mark Dresser: Soul to Soul (2008 , Discos Intolerancia) B+(***)
- Angles: Epileptical West: Live in Coimbra (2009 , Clean Feed) A
- David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
- Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho) B+(***)
- Tommy Babin's Benzene: Your Body Is Your Prison (2010, Drip Audio) A-
- Stefano Battaglia/Michele Rabbia: Pastorale (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Jamie Begian Big Band: Big Fat Grin (2008 , Innova) B+(**)
- Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 , Motema) B+(***)
- Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Ketil Bjřrnstad: Remembrance (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Michiel Braam's Wurli Trio: Non-Functionals! (2009, BBB) B+(**)
- Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's the End of the World (2010, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Alison Burns and Martin Taylor: 1: AM (2008 , P3 Music) B+(***)
- Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 , Drip Audio) B+(**)
- Frank Carlberg: Tivoli Trio (2009 , Red Piano) B+(***)
- James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 , Songlines) B+(***)
- Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra (2009 , Thrill Jockey) B+(**)
- The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (2009 , Cryptogramophone, 2CD) A-
- Corey Christiansen Quartet: Outlaw Tractor (2010, Origin) B+(**)
- Anat Cohen: Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard (2009 , Anzic) A-
- Freddy Cole: Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B (2010, High Note) A-
- Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (1980-83 , No Business, 2CD) A-
- Conference Call: What About . . . ? (2007-08 , Not Two, 2CD) A-
- Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet) B+(***)
- Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 , Ayler) B+(***)
- Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani: Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus) B+(***)
- Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation (2009 , Sunnyside) A-
- The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen Channels (2009 , Tapestry) B+(***)
- Empty Cage Quartet: Gravity (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Empty Cage Quartet & Soletti Besnard: Take Care of Floating (2008 , Rude Awakening) B+(**)
- Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions) B+(***)
- Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Peter Evans Quartet: Live in Lisbon (2009 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Mike Fahie: Anima (2010, Bju'ecords) B+(***)
- John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 , Capri) B+(***)
- Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Scott Fields Ensemble: Fugu (1995 , Clean Feed) B+(**)
- Food [Thomas Strřnen/Iain Ballamy]: Quiet Inlet (2007-08 , ECM) B+(**)
- Bill Frisell: Beautiful Dreamers (2010, Savoy Jazz) A-
- Curtis Fuller: I Will Tell Her (2010, Capri) B+(***)
- Rosario Giuliani: Lennie's Pennies (2009 , Dreyfus Jazz) B+(**)
- Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
- Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
- Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Fred Hersch Trio: Whirl (2010, Palmetto) A-
- Chris Icasiano/Neil Welch: Bad Luck. (2009, Belle) B+(***)
- Justin Janer: Following Signs (2009 , Janer Music) B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2009 , Naim) B+(***)
- Kihnoua: Unauthorized Caprices (2009 , Not Two) B+(**)
- Oleg Kireyev/Keith Javors: Rhyme & Reason (2009 , Inarhyme) A-
- Randy Klein: Sunday Morning (2009 , Jazzheads) B+(**)
- Komeda Project: Requiem (2009, WM) B+(**)
- Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 , Cadence Jazz) B+(***)
- Jerry Leake: Cubist (2009 , Rhombus Publishing) B+(**)
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz) A-
- Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 , Evil Rabbit) B+(***)
- Rozanne Levine & Chakra Tuning: Only Moment (2008 , Acoustics) B+(**)
- Erica Lindsay/Sumi Tonooka: Initiation (2004 , ARC) B+(***)
- The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 , Tompkins Square) B+(***)
- Frank London/Lorin Sklamberg: Tsuker-Zis (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Olivier Manchon: Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1 (2010, ObliqSound) B+(**)
- Sarah Manning: Dandelion Clock (2009 , Posi-Tone) B+(**)
- Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage: Copacabana (2008 , Zoho) B+(***)
- Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 , Nonesuch) B+(**)
- Myra Melford's Be Bread: The Whole Tree Gone (2008 , Firehouse 12) A-
- Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrů/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 , Big Round) B+(***)
- Memphis Nighthawks: Jazz Lips (1976-77 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Dave Mihaly's Shimmering Leaves Ensemble: Eastern Accents in the Far West (2010, Porto Franco) B+(**)
- Allison Miller: Boom Tic Boom (2010, Foxhaven) A-
- Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran: Lost in a Dream (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Wolfgang Muthspiel & Mick Goodrick: Live at the Jazz Standard (2008 , Material) B+(**)
- Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Chicago Volume (2010, Smalltown Superjazz) B+(***)
- Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Milwaukee Volume (2007 , Smalltown Superjazz) A-
- Gia Notte: Shades (2009 , Gnote) B+(***)
- Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Orchestra: Naima (2009 , Meg Okura) B+(**)
- Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton + Peter Evans: Scenes in the House of Music (2010, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- William Parker: At Somewhere There (2008 , Barnyard) B+(***)
- Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Wilson: Mind Games (2008 , Leo) A-
- Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark (2010, Leo) A-
- Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm (2009 , Clean Feed, 2CD) A-
- Portico Quartet: Isla (2009 , Real World) B+(**)
- Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (2008 , Porter) A-
- Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and Negotiations (2008 , 482 Music) B+(***)
- Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Pete Robbins: Silent Z Live (2009 , Hate Laugh Music) B+(***)
- Rova & Nels Cline Singers: The Celestial Septet (2008 , New World) B+(***)
- Ellen Rowe Quartet: Wishing Well (2009 , PKO) B+(***)
- Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Abyss (2009, ObliqSound) B+(**)
- Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova (2009 , Origin) B+(***)
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Rhapsody in Blue: Live (2009, Spartacus) B+(**) [Rhapsody]
- Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (1963 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Matthew Shipp: 4D (2009 , Thirsty Ear) B+(**)
- Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 , CAM Jazz) B+(***)
- John Skillman's Barb City Stompers: DeKalb Blues (2009 , Delmark) B+(***)
- David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 , Bju'ecords) B+(***)
- Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne for Ava (2007 , Origin) B+(**)
- Sounds of Liberation: Sounds of Liberation (1972 , Porter) A-
- The Stryker/Slagle Band: Keeper (2010, Panorama) A-
- Sun Ra Arkestra [under the direction of Marshall Allen]: Live at the Paradox (2008 , In+Out) B+(***)
- Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems (2007 , Not Two) A-
- 3ology With Ron Miles (2008 , Tapestry) A-
- Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost Birdsongs (2005 , Prefecture) B+(**)
- Trichotomy: Variations (2007 , Naim Jazz) B+(***)
- Steve Turre: Delicious and Delightful (2010, High Note) B+(***)
- The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010, Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
- James Blood Ulmer: In and Out (2008 , In+Out) A-
- Vandermark 5: Annular Gift (2009, Not Two) A-
- Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown: Far Away Places (2009 , String Damper) B+(**)
- David Weiss & Point of Departure: Snuck In (2008 , Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Mort Weiss: Raising the Bar (2009 , SMS Jazz) B+(***)
- Wellstone Conspiracy: Motives (2009 , Origin) B+(**)
- Frank Wess Nonet: Once Is Not Enough (2008 , Labeth Music) B+(**)