Jazz Consumer Guide (26):
Benjamin Herman: Hypochristmastreefuzz (Dox) An alto saxophonist who styles himself as New Cool and describes his band as a "surf-guitar based, Dutch-impro, cocktail-jazz sort of thing" returns to the doyen of Dutch-impro for two discs of Misha Mengelberg tunes, the tricky mischief exploding into pure joy: "Brozziman" is an r&b honk for the avant-garde, the Ruben Hein vocal goes down easy, and the kwela piece reminds me of a Sonny Rollins calypso. The live disc is even looser and edgier. A
Ivo Perelman: Mind Games (Leo) Brazil's iconic tenor saxophonist decided to celebrate twenty years of hardy free blowing with a publicity blitz behind this year's crop. At least three of the records are keepers -- Soulstorm (Clean Feed) with its acerbic cello and bass; The Apple in the Dark (Leo) with the Gerry Hemingway percussion touch and occasional splotches of dramatic piano; maybe also another intimate drummer duo, The Stream of Life (Leo), with Brian Willson -- but your best bet is the most basic, a sturdy sax trio with Willson again (misspelled on the cover) and hard-working Dominic Duval on bass. A MINUS
Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra: India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane (Water Baby) A Bay Area drummer with African and Asian blood in his veins starts with Coltrane's "India" and "Africa" and expands each to a suite, adding African and Indian percussion, strings and wind instruments in an orgy of worldly cosmopolitanism. A MINUS
Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (NoBusiness) One of those records that must have seemed interesting but unfocused at the time sounds prophetic now, especially padded out to two-disc length with a rousing live set. Will Connell's flutes and reeds don't so much lead as dodge Jason Kao Hwang's razor-sharp violin, amplified by William Parker's bass and prodded along by Zen Matsuura's drums. A MINUS
Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My Silent House (ECM) Joint credits, but Rothenberg's clarinet or bass clarinet frames each song, most with titles reflecting his interest in nature sounds. Crispell's piano wends cagily around the edges, but often she just taps the soundboard or clicks percussive things, eliciting the sort of odd, unexpected sounds that flesh out the dark night theme. A MINUS
Stephan Crump: Reclamation (Sunnyside) With Rosetta Trio -- Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox, who tone their guitars down so as not to overwhelm the bassist leader. The balance lets every string count, forming an intimate framework that seduces you into ever-closer listening. A MINUS
Paquito D'Rivera: Tango Jazz: Live at Jazz at Lincoln Center (Sunnyside) The Cuban clarinetist has dabbled in tango before, poorly, and I had yet to hear anything from the uptown culture palace that I could recommend, so why this breakthrough? That's easy: bassist-arranger Pablo Aslan, whose own records have stealthily insinuated tango into the New York jazz ghetto. Yet this is an advance for Aslan as well: his moves are so assured and graceful, the extra glitz actually helps. A MINUS
Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (Porter) In the 1960s, Grimes had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, but after vanishing for 35 years who expected he would return to form, much less come up with something new? The David Murray album under his name was a marketing ploy, but Grimes himself has to carry most of the weight in this reunion with drummer Ali. He comes up with a new trick as he almost seamlessly swaps a violin in -- his technique is similar on both, so you've never heard violin like this, and rarely bass. A MINUS
ICP Orchestra: ICP 049 (ICP) The grizzled veterans of the New Dutch Swing movement recapitulate forty years of evolution: a gravel-voiced ballad, a dip into chaos, resolution into delirious string-driven swooning, a burst of applause that comes from nowhere, less the signature of a live recording than a sound effect that secures their place in the real world. A MINUS
Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (Smalltown Superjazz) The Ex has long been Holland's analogue to the Mekons -- left-wing post-punks with a knack for singles riffs -- but while the Mekons wandered into country music, the Ex-ers dabbled in Afrofunk and avant-jazz. Guitarists Andy Morr and Terrie Ex expand the sonics with squelchy reverb and distortion, while the avant jazzers rock out. A MINUS
Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known (Clean Feed) The leader's bass brackets the sonic range where Aaron Bennett's tenor sax and John Finkbeiner's guitar rumble and roil -- deep, dense, with a steady charge and a tendency to get noisy. Two covers: one from Air drummer Steve McCall, the other from Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart, who knew a thing or two about getting down and dirty. A MINUS
The Microscopic Septet: Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk (Cuneiform) Adding three extra saxophones to Monk's basic sax-piano-bass-drums arrangements opens them up into a kaleidoscope of color. Phillip Johnston's soprano refracts Steve Lacy, while Mike Hashim's tenor can't help but swing. A MINUS
Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (1986, Kabell) Blackwell was famous as Ornette Coleman's drummer, carrying on with Don Cherry in Old and New Dreams. Smith is the more rigorous trumpet player, and nearly as catholic. He's done lots of solo and duo albums, but Blackwell patiently brings out his best -- mesmerizing trumpet, good-natured flute, mbira, and voice. A MINUS
Anthony Braxton: 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (Leo) The third four-CD helping from the tour, with no signs yet that the barrel even has a bottom.
Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (Porter) Credit Andrew Cyrille and Henry Grimes for holding this together; Paul Dunmall even gets his bagpipes to behave.
Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (Valid) Uneasy in post-Katrina New Orleans, meditating on shock, awe, sham, and shame.
Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles: Duo (Fenomedia) Twins, bass and drums respectively, instant rhythm section for anyone passing through Poland, but complete together.
Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (self-released) Avant-trumpet trio forgoes bass support for guitar interference.
Billy Fox's Blackbirds & Bullets: Dulces (Clean Feed) Crazy like a maracas player, shuffling three horns, keys, and violin.
Vijay Iyer: Tirtha (ACT) With tabla for a taste of India, but Prasanna's guitar leans west even when Iyer's piano glances east.
Ernestine Anderson: Nightlife (High Note) Two sets straddle her 80th birthday -- not a celebration, just working, fortunately with Houston Person.
Sun Ra Arkestra, Under the Direction of Marshall Allen: Live at the Paradox (In+Out) The secret to a ghost band that never gets trapped in its past is a past so far in the future we don't know it's coming.
Anat Fort: And If (ECM) Quiet, supple meditations on Paul Motian, the inscrutable path beyond Bill Evans.
John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside) Fun and games with obscure bebop gems, with some of that Latin tinge.
Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Night Logic (RogueArt) Sun Ra vet + volatile pianist + sly bassist = avant chemistry.
World Saxophone Quartet: Yes We Can (Jazzwerkstatt) Murray and Bluiett celebrate Obama, with Kidd Jordan for Lake's grit, and James Carter for Hemphill's soul.
Stephan Crump/James Carney: Echo Run Pry (Clean Feed) Bass and piano, the former in the lead, the latter dark and percussive.
Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 2 (Smalltown Superjazz) Another "Chunk of Lung" hits the floor, but Vandermark leaves the guitarist alone for their "Knuckle Cracking Party."
The Warren Vaché/John Allred Quintet: Top Shelf (Arbors) Aging young fogeys advance, reminiscing about the swinging '50s.
Hugo Antunes: Roll Call (Clean Feed) Bassist-composer, double drums, lots of deep rumble and fleeting, flaring reeds.
Harold O'Neal: Whirling Mantis (Smalls) Pianist son of Black Panthers in exile goes back to his roots -- bebop.
Mike Mainieri: Crescent (NYC) Last call for Charlie Mariano, playing a lot of Coltrane tarted up with vibes.
Rich Halley Quartet: Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival (Pine Eagle) Haley's tenor sax and Bobby Bradford's cornet, blowing free in the wild wild west.
Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon: Mystic Maze (Jazzwerkstatt) Walkin', talkin' Béla Bartok blues.
David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (Bju'ecords) Postbop quintet, the shape of jazz du jour, with Nate Radley's guitar anchoring the leader's crackling trumpet.
James Carney Group: Ways & Means (Songlines) Pianist surrounded with distinctive horns: Tony Malaby, Ralph Alessi, Peter Epstein, Josh Roseman.
Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (High Note) Good advice when you're 78, as is "Let the band help you out."
Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (Zoho) Roughing up the formalism of old tango chestnuts.
Rafi Malkiel: Water (Tzadik) Latin beats, Jewish horns, refreshing when the tide comes in.
Cut: Top: David S Ware; HM: Mike Reed, Decoy, Jazz Passengers.
Originally published in Village Voice, May 11, 2011
This table provides a working guide to how the JCG is shaping up. This does not include anything moved to bk-flush: these include items relegated to Surplus, reviewed in Recycled Goods, or just passed over. Entries in black are written, gray graded but not written, red ungraded but with prospect notes (all these are at the bottom of their approximate grade levels, alphabetized). A-list, B-list and Duds are alphabetical; HM lists are ranked, with breaks for three-two-one stars.
Album count: 39; Word count: 1488 (graded 13: 942; additional 26: 546).
I try to write up an informal note on every jazz record I hear the first (or sometimes second) time I play it. Those notes are collected over the course of a week, then posted in the blog. They are also collected here.
The surplus file collects final notes when I decide that I cannot realistically keep a record under active consideration for the Jazz Consumer Guide. These notes are mostly written at the end of a JCG cycle and posted to the blog when the column is printed. In effect, they are the extended copy to the column. There are various reasons for this. For especially good records, it is often because Francis Davis or someone else has already reviewed it and my two cents would be redundant. For old music it is often because I wrote something in Recycled Goods and figure that was enough. Sometimes good records have just gotten old. Most of the time the records aren't all that interesting anyway. I can handle 25-30 records per column. It just doesn't make sense for me to keep more than 60-80 graded records in the active list at the start of a new cycle. In many cases, I decide the prospecting notes or Recycled Goods review suffices, so note that in the file.