Jazz Consumer Guide (28):
These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #28. 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 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, 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 402 (plus 85 carryovers). The
count from the previous file was 249 (+84).
(before that: 227+96, 248+113, 218+96, 207+125, 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).
Rez Abbasi's Invocation: Suno Suno (2010 , Enja):
Guitarist, from Pakistan, eighth album since 1995, not counting his
work with Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition -- a trio with Dan
Weiss on drums that is expanded to five here, adding Vijay Iyer on
piano and Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, only here the compositions
are all Abbasi. The star power of Mahanthappa and Iyer is undeniable,
but it comes off as unduly heavy, jerky, dramatic -- impressive in its
Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms: Spacer (2011, Delmark):
Vibraphone player, based in Chicago, the one guy everyone out there
goes to for the craft. Trio with Nate McBride (bass) and Mike Reed
(drums). First-rate musicians, but the effort is a little thin all
Mario Adnet: More Jobim Jazz (2011, Adventure Music):
Jobim orchestrated for a not-quite big band -- runs 7 to 11 pieces --
which clears up Jobim's characteristic lightness, adding not just
density but sumptuous warmth. A sequel to Adnet's 2007 Jobim
Jazz, with a Baden Powell tribute in the meantime.
Antonio Adolfo/Carol Sabaya: Lá e Cá/Here and There
(2010, AAM): Brazilian pianist, composer of a couple pieces here; AMG
lists 17 records since 1992; Discogs has fewer records but they're
almost all earlier, the first from 1969. Sabaya, his daughter, sings,
a cool treat although Adolfo's piano excursions are every bit as
delicious. Aside from Adolfo's originals, everything else has stood
the test of time: "All the Things You Are," "A Night in Tunisia,"
"Time After Time," "Lullaby of Birdland," "'Round Midnight," a lot
of Jobim and Cole Porter, sometimes segued together.
Antonio Adolfo: Chora Baião (2011, AAM): Brazilian
pianist, hard to say how important he is down there, but has recorded
since 1969. I belatedly caught up with his 2010 Lá e Cá with
daughter Carol Saboya and put it on my HM list. Saboya sings one song
here, too, but these are mostly instrumentals, mostly choro or baião,
uniformly nice and tasteful, nearly as ingratiating.
Afro Bop Alliance: Una Más (2010 , OA2): Big
band with extra Latin percussion: Roberto Quintero (congas) and Dave
Samuels (vibes, marimba), otherwise pretty much the Vince Norman/Joe
McCarthy Big band. Hot in spots, merely tepid in others; saved, I
think, by Quintero.
Amina Alaoui: Arco Iris (2010 , ECM): Singer,
from Fez, Morocco; has studied classical music traditions in Morocco
and France, philosophy and linguistics, with interests straying as
far as Persian classical music. Has a handful of albums. Focus here
is on Andalusian music, including fado and flamenco, which was driven
back to North Africa by the Spanish Reconquista. With violin, oud,
guitar, mandolin, percussion.
Aimée Allen: Winters & Mays (2010 ,
Azuline Music): Singer, wrote (or co-wrote with brother David Allen)
6 of 12 songs here (plus added lyrics to a Pat Metheny piece). From
what little bio I've been able to piece together, studied at Yale,
then got law degrees from Columbia and the Sorbonne in France. Two
previous albums, one in French. Practices law by day and sings by
night. Band includes Pete McCann on guitar (sauve and exceptionally
tasty here), as well as piano, bass, and drums, plus Victor Prieto
on accordion for three cuts. One Brazilian piece (Powell, de Moraes),
nice percussion there. Some of the covers are striking -- she really
digs into "Bye Bye Blackbird," for instance. The originals are harder
to gauge, but she's smart, determined, and can make a point.
Geri Allen: A Child Is Born (2011, Motéma Music):
Solo piano/organ/clavinet/Fender Rhodes, plus "vocal soundscape
engineering and design" on one track, other voices on two more.
Christmas music more or less, mostly attributed to Trad. with
two originals added. Sometimes the mind drifts aimlessly, but
it's hard to disguise pieces like "We Three Kings" and "Little
Harry Allen: Rhythm on the River (2011, Challenge):
Thirteen "river" songs, two by Hoagy Carmichael, the only one without
"river" in the title is "Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On" although the
musty old Stephen Foster "Old Folks at Home" had to reach into the
parents for "Swanee River" -- wonder how they missed "Old Man River"?
The band gets such a charge on the four songs joined by Warren Vaché
and his cornet that Allen's quartet sounds down at first. Eventually
that pays off in drawing out the tenor saxophonist's sumptous balad
Fabian Almazan Trio: Personalities (2010-11 ,
Biophilia): Pianist, from Cuba, based in New York, first record. Ben
Ratliff recently wrote him up as one of four young pianists doing
innovative things, along with Kris Davis (whom I like a lot) and
two others I hadn't heard of. The trio cuts, with Linda Oh on bass
and Henry Cole on drums, offer an ambitious mix of postbop moves.
Two more cuts add a string trio led by violinist Meg Okura, and
they rub me the wrong way, especially the one written by someone
The Ames Room: Bird Dies (2010 , Clean Feed):
Sax trio, bills themselves as "minimal maximal terror jazz." Saxophonist
Jean-Luc Guionnet is French, but bassist and drummer (Clayton Thomas
and Will Guthrie) have suspiciously Anglo names. Second album, just
one 48:20 staccato rumble, daring you to turn the volume up to see if
you can discern any changes. I did, a little.
Eliane Amherd: Now and From Now On (2011, ELI):
Guitarist-singer-songwriter, from Switzerland, based in New York.
First album. Good voice. Nice beat. Didn't follow the songs, but
the lyrics are in the booklet -- even the one non-original, from
Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Sparks (2009
, Carlo Music): Guitar-organ trio, with Apicella on guitar,
Dave Mattock on organ, and Alan Korzin on drums. Second album.
He's studied with Dave Stryker, but he's basically a Grant Green
guy -- wrote 3 of 8 tunes, covering Green, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou
Donaldson, Steve Cropper/Don Covay, and Michael Jackson -- he's
a lightweight, but the latter was tastier than anything on Joey
DeFrancesco's Jackson tome. Five cuts add Stephen Riley on tenor
sax, to little effect. Two cuts add a violinist (John Blake or
Amy Bateman), and that's something worth exploring further.
Christian Artmann: Uneasy Dreams (2010-11 ,
self-released): Flute player, based in New York, for biographical
background about all he says is that he was "raised on a heavy dose
of Bach in Germany and Austria," and that he's studied at Berklee,
Frankfurter Musikwertstatt, Princeton, and Harvard Law. Second album,
with bass and drums, piano on most cuts, voice (Elena McEntire) on
three, percussion on three. No label, but his artwork and packaging
are very nice. Mostly original pieces, some short free improvs.
I'm no flute fan, but he has an approach that I can't pigeonhole
into any of the obvious styles, including the one for folks who
grew up on too much Bach.
ArtsWest: The Vocal Jazz Collective: Redefition
(2009 , OA2): ArtsWest is some kind of organization in Seattle:
produces events, runs a theater company and an art gallery, offers
education although I'm not sure you can call it a school, is "a
community center and economic attractor." Jeff Baker, who has a few
vocal jazz albums of his own, is Director of Vocal Music, and the
Vocal Jazz Collective is a set of vocalists including 13-year-old
Andrew Coba, who doesn't have a lead here but is somewhere in the
choir -- not clear that the others are much older. The band is made
up of Seattle all-stars including Brent Jensen on sax and Thomas
Marriott on trumpet, arranged by pianist Justin Nielsen. Singers
Camille Avery, LeAnne Robinson, Georgia Sedlack, Cari Stevens, Fara
Sumbureru, Karmen Wolf, Harris Long, and Mary Thompson get one or
two standards each. Good band -- the instrumental breaks are all
expert. None of the singers are especially memorable, but overall
this is surprisingly pleasant.
AsGuests: Universal Mind (2010 , Origin):
Basically a duo -- Michal Vanoucek (piano) and Miro Herak (vibes) --
although they also perform as a quartet with bass and drums, and
here they add strings (violin, viola, cello). Vanoucek is from
Slovakia, b. 1977; I've run into him before. Herak is from the
Czech side but is based in Slovakia. Has a fancy chamber jazz
feel, speeding up with the vibes chime in.
Pablo Aslan Quintet: Piazzolla in Brooklyn and the Rebirth
of Jazz Tango (2011, Soundbrush): The official birth of jazz
tango was announced in 1959 by new tango composer Astor Piazzolla,
living at the time in New York and recording a record called Take
Me Dancing with a jazz quintet. Piazzolla himself considered the
record "dreadful" but Aslan, an Argentine bassist based in Brooklyn
who over the last decade has produced the best jazz tango albums ever,
decided to give it another shot. Aslan added an extra Piazzolla tune
to the seven plus two covers from the album ("Laura," "Lullaby of
Birdland"). For the group, he went back to Buenos Aires -- Gustavo
Bergalli (trumpet), Nicolas Enrich (bandoneon), Abel Rogantini (piano),
and Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla (drums, Astor's grandson). I don't have
the original album to compare to, but I don't doubt that Aslan has
managed to pep it up. Still, feels a bit compressed.
Andrew Atkinson Quartet: Live: Keep Looking Forward
(2011, self-released): Drummer-led quartet, b. 1982 -- I read his
bio as saying in Jamaica, but somehow he wound up in Miami. First
album, with Tevin Pennicott on tenor sax, Jim Gasior on piano, and
Kurt Hengstebeck on electric bass. Atkinson, Pennicott, and Gasior
wrote one song each, plus one split between Atkinson and Pennicott;
plus four covers -- a Jobim, "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and
two from Miles Davis (forgetting about Victor Feldman on "Seven Steps
to Heaven"). Group is fast, upbeat, a lot of fun. Pennicott's from
Georgia. I noticed him before when he lifted Kenny Burrell's Be
Yourself to HM status, and he's even better here, in a real sax
Mike Baggetta Quartet: Source Material (2010 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in New York. Third album
with his name first, plus three duos with Kris Tiner -- one with
Tiner's name first, two as Tin/Bag. Quartet includes Jason Rigby
on "saxophones" (pictured on soprano, also plays tenor), Eivind
Opsvik on bass, and George Schuller on drums.
Yaala Ballin: On the Road (2010 , Gallery):
Standards singer, born in Israel, has a New York band and a previous
album on Smalls, as do most of her band: Zaid Nasser (alto sax),
Chris Byars (tenor sax), and Ari Roland (bass); the others are
Vahagn Hayrapetyan (piano) and Keith Balla (drums). Leans heavily on
blues -- two medleys, "Evil Gal Blues/Salty Papa Blues" and "Long
Gone Blues/Wise Woman Blues" tower like the pylons in a suspension
bridge, and you never doubt her right to sing those blues. "I Cried
for You" can't help but remind me of Jimmy Rushing, a thought that
brings me nothing but pleasure. The saxophonists stay within their
roles, but are superb, as expected.
Baloni: Fremdenzimmer (2010 , Clean Feed):
Trio: Joachim Badenhorst (bass clarinet, clarinet, tenor sax), Frantz
Loriot (viola), and Pascal Niggenkemper (double bass). Don't think
I've ever run across Loriot before, but he is central here, setting
the tone and dynamics, and when he decides to whine and mourn no one
else can break free.
Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man's Blues/New York
Collage (1977-78 , NoBusiness, 2CD): The late, great
violinist's first two albums -- the first so obscure I missed it
when I assembled a discography for my 2005 Voice piece on
Bang. A quartet for the first record, with Bilal Abdur Rahman on
tenor and soprano sax, William Parker on bass, and Rashid Bakr on
drums. Rahman, an old friend of Bang's, picked up Islam in prison
and recorded reluctantly but more often than not his cutting and
slashing is terrific here. Both albums are hit and miss, with bits
of spoken word spouting political critique -- "when the poor steal,
it's called looting; when the rich steal, it's called profit" is
one turn of phrase. Second album adds Henry Warner on alto sax
and Khuwana Fuller on congas -- Warner's another player who shows
up on rare occasions but always makes a big impression. Way back
when I would probably have hedged my grade, seeing each album as
promising but half-baked, but now they're indisputable pieces of
history -- and not just because Bang and Parker went on to have
brilliant careers. Also note that the label in Lithuania that
rescued them cared enough to provide a 36-page booklet on the
era and this remarkable music.
Rahsaan Barber: Everyday Magic (2010 , Jazz
Music City): Saxophonist (tenor, alto, soprano, also flute), teaches
at Belmont U. in Nashville; second album. Calls his group Everyday
Magic -- Adam Agati (guitar), Jody Nardone (piano), Jerry Navarro
(bass), and Nioshi Jackson (drums) -- and adds a couple guests. His
tenor is strong and full-toned, and he gets some funk out of the
guitar-piano combo without compromising his postbop cred. The other
horns slack off a bit.
John Basile: Amplitudes (2011, StringTime Jazz):
Guitarist, b. 1955 in Boston, ninth album since 1986. Solo, plugged
his guitar into an iPhone, some kind of "app," and ProTools with
"no amps and some digital plug in effects." One original, mostly
standards (including one Jobim), covers of tracks by John Abercrombie
and Ralph Towner.
Michael Bates: Acrobat: Music for, and by, Dmitri
Shostakovich (2011, Sunnyside): Bassist, or "bassist-composer"
as he likes to say -- as does nearly everyone, which is why I almost
never retain the second part, but the balance is worth noting with him,
even more so than with such distinguished composer-bassists as Ben
Allison and Adam Lane. I must admit I was put off by the Shostakovich
theme, unfortunately, regrettably: for one thing, only one (of nine)
pieces is by Shostakovich; for another, his postbop orchestration --
a superb group with Chris Speed (alto sax, clarinet), Russ Johnson
(trumpet), Russ Lossing (piano, rhodes), and Tom Rainey (drums) -- of
"Dance of Death" is a high point here, possibly because it signifies
to me more as rock (as Weill does) than as classical. The affinities
of the other pieces isn't clear to me, but as tightly composed postbop
pieces they are remarkably varied and inventive. Should play this
Stefano Battaglia Trio: The River of Anyder (2009
, ECM): Pianist, b. 1965 in Milan, has 30 albums since 1986,
four on ECM -- two early ones tied explicitly to Bill Evans. Has a
knack for impressing me without offering a hook on which to hang a
The Return: The Gerry Beaudoin Trio With Harry Allen
(2011, Francesca): Guitarist, AMG lists seven previous albums going
back to 1992 but doesn't have this one, which may be digital only.
Has a very light touch in a trio with bass and drums, doing eight
tracks, none of which I recognize as standards. Tenor saxophonist
Allen tries his best to fit in, which mostly means toning himself
down to near invisiblity.
Dee Bell: Sagacious Grace (1990 , Laser):
Singer, b. 1950 in Fort Wayne, IN; cut a couple records for Concord
1983-85, but nothing since until now. This session was shelved for
technical reasons but has finally been cleaned up and dedicated to
her late pianist Al Plank. Standards, including a couple jazz tunes
Bell wrote lyrics to. Band includes John Stowell on guitar, and
(even better) Houston Person on tenor sax.
Stephane Belmondo: The Same as It Never Was Before
(2011, Sunnyside): Trumpet/flugelhorn player (also credited with bass
trumpet and shells), b. 1967 in France. Second album, quartet with
Kirk Lightsey (piano), Sylvain Romano (bass), and Billy Hart (drums).
Wrote about half of the pieces, drawing one from Lightsey, others
from Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, also "Everything Happens to Me."
Daniel Bennett Group: Peace & Stability Among Bears
(2010 , Bennett Alliance): Plays alto sax, flute, clarinet. B.
1979 in Rochester, NY; studied at Roberts Wesleyan in Rochester, then
at New England Conservatory in Boston (ah, finally found the inevitable
George Garzone reference). Has two previous bear-themed albums on his
website, all attributed to the Group, which started as a trio then
added a bassist. Current lineup: Chris Hersch (guitar), Jason Davis
(bass), Rick Landwehr (drums). He calls this "folk jazz" and cites
Steve Reich's minimalism as an influence. Repetitive patterns slide
around the guitar, with even the alto sax pitched about as high as
it can go.
George Benson: Guitar Man (2011, Concord): Guitarist,
was so dedicated to Wes Montgomery that he worked Boss Guitar
into his first album title, but by the early 1970s had slid into light
shlock and in 1976 scored a breakthrough hit with his undistinct vocals.
I wrote him off long ago, but I've gotten a few of his recent records --
for some reason this is the only one Concord serviced me with in 2011,
and this is the least awful of the last three. For one thing, only
three vocals, and his Stevie Wonder impersonation is so uncanny he
gets away with "My Cherie Amour"; for another, he takes two cuts solo,
and he still has that sweet touch, even on something as moldy as
"Danny Boy." On the other hand, his funk isn't even fake, and the
best you can say for his string-drenched "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
is that the melody is unrecognizable.
David Berkman: Self-Portrait (2011, Red Piano):
Pianist, b. 1958, sixth album since 1998 -- the inevitable solo
one. Mix of standards, starting with "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,"
and originals, four of them designated sketches. Self-assured,
balanced tone, runs on cold logic, impeccable as these things go.
Sarah Bernstein: Unearthish (2010 , Page Frame
Music): Violinist, based in Brooklyn, seems to be her first album
although she has a big role in Iron Dog's Field Recordings 1.
Duo, with percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. More vocals here, things
with sensible lyrics, more spoken than not, reminds one of Laurie
Anderson -- of course, the violin tips that direction.
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: MTO Plays
Sly (2011, Royal Potato Family): A small big band based on
pre-Basie models with a postmodern twist -- trumpet (Bernstein),
trombone (Curtis Fowlkes), three reeds (Doug Weiselman, Peter Apfelbaum,
Erik Lawrence), guitar/banjo (Matt Munisteri), violin (Charles Burnham),
bass (Ben Allison), drums (Ben Perowsky) -- has gigged regularly for
over a decade but this is just their third album. Eleven Sly Stone
songs (counting "Que Sera Sera") with guest vocals, two "Sly Notions"
instrumentals, a "Bernie Worrell Interlude": the covers offer more
horns but don't stray far from the originals, mostly adding weight
(which tends to be the case 40 years down the road). Worrell, Vernon
Reid, and Bill Laswell help out; of the singers Dean Bowman is the
most Sly-like, and Shilpa Ray the slyest. Fun, of course, but I
don't hear it either stepping back or moving forward.
Carlos Bica & Azul: Things About (2011, Clean
Feed): Title listed above artist name, so it can flow as one, even
into the smaller print "featuring Frank Möbus and Jim Black" (guitar
and drums). Bica is a bassist, from Portugal, has at least seven
going back to his 1996 album Azul (with Möbus, Black, and
a couple guests -- and there seem to be a couple more Azul albums
in the meantime. Möbus has a record/group called Der Rote Bereich --
AMG shows one album, but his website lists six. He's a disarmingly
unfancy player, so it takes a while to sink in how charming he is.
And it's good not to overwhelm the bassist, who has plenty to
contribute on his own.
Dan Blake: The Aquarian Suite (2011, Bju'ecords):
Saxophonist (doesn't specify further), based in New York. Has a
previous, self-released record called The Party Suite. This
is a two-horn quartet, with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Jorge Roeder
on bass, and Richie Barshay on drums. Vigorous, expansive postbop,
grabs you at high speed, loses a bit when they slow it down.
Ran Blake/Dominique Eade: Whirlpool (2004-08
, Jazz Project): Piano-voice duets. Blake cut his first
album in 1961, calling it The Newest Sound Around, and
has thirty-some records since, most either solo piano or duets
with vocalists (most notably Jeanne Lee; recently with Christine
Correa and Sara Serpa). Eade was b. 1958 in England, met Blake
when she studied at New England Conservatory. She has six albums
since 1992 (counting this one). Her voice is right on target,
so clear it needs little dressing, and Blake makes more out of
less as well as anyone.
Anthony Branker & Word Play: Dialogic (2011,
Origin): Composer/music director, originally a trumpet player, b.
1958, graduated from and teaches at Princeton. Third album using
this role/methodology -- has an earlier record as Tony Branker.
All interesting postbop directions, but this one is the most
straightforward: basically an old-fashioned sax-piano-bass-drums
quartet, with Ralph Bowen, Jim Ridl, Kenny Davis, and Adam Cruz.
Can't fathom how the dialectics of Mikhail Bakhtin inspired this,
or why the all-instrumental group is called Word Play, but that's
largely because the music is so satisfying we're left with few
Bobby Bradford/Mark Dresser/Glenn Ferris: Live in LA
(2009 , Clean Feed): Cornet, bass, trombone respectively. Bradford,
b. 1934, has a long, and relatively unheralded, avant-garde career --
I've missed virtually all of it myself, including his famous work with
John Carter. Ferris I know even less about: b. 1950 in Los Angeles;
played early on with Don Ellis, Harry James, and Frank Zappa; has six
albums since 1995, mostly on Enja; goes back a long ways with Bradford.
With bass but no drums, this takes its time getting anywhere, wallowing
in murky depths, which seems to be the point.
Randy Brecker With DR Big Band: The Jazz Ballad Song Book
(2010 , Red Dot Music): Also with the Danish National Chamber
Orchestra, who get smaller type on the cover and mostly lurk in the
background, like an ugly set of drapes. The DR Big Band is a polished
unit with some players -- especially in the reed section -- who can
dish out an impressive solo. But Brecker takes most of the solos, and
everythign else amounts to little more than a fancy frame around his
Wolfert Brederode Quartet: Post Scriptum (2010 ,
ECM): Pianist, b. 1974 in the Netherlands. AMG lists four albums, most
likely too few; his website shows 20, many under other names (especially
vocalist Susanne Abbuehl). Quartet includes Claudio Puntin (clarinets),
Mats Eilertsen (double bass), and Samuel Rohrer (drums). Originals,
including one each from Rohrer and Puntin, three from Eilertsen. Very
pretty, not quite lush.
Zach Brock: The Magic Number (2010 , Secret Fort):
Violinist, b. 1974 in Lexington, KY. Third album since 2005, not counting
a couple EPs. Quartet with bass, drums, and extra percussion, with some
vocal exuberance toward the end. Poised with some swagger, pushes the
violin up front and makes it sing.
Rob Brown/Daniel Levin: Natural Disorder (2008 ,
Not Two): Brown plays brashly free alto sax, b. 1962, best known as a
key to William Parker's pianoless quartet; has more than a dozen albums
under his own name since 1989, mostly on obscure labels. Levin plays
cello, b. 1974, has been prolific since 2003 with nine albums (on Clean
Feed and Hat). Duo. Often engaging, especially when the cello pitches
in, but a long stretch of solo alto wears thin.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Last Time Out: December 26,
1967 (1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Unofficial tape,
probably off the soundboard, found in a closet and dusted off.
Brubeck had announced his brief retirement to start at the end
of 1967, but in most regards this just extended the hundred-plus
concerts the Quartet had given during the year. A long running,
immensely popular group, With Paul Desmond, the alto saxophonist
who had given the Quartet its signature sound since 1951, drummer
Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, who had joined in 1956 and
1958 respectively. Lots of interesting stuff, ending in a "Take
Five" that leaps right off the stage.
Bryan and the Haggards: Still Alive and Kickin' Down the
Walls (2011, Hot Cup): Second group album, not what I'd
call enough longevity to justify the title. Two saxophonists --
Bryan Murray and Jon Irabagon, doubling up on tin whistle and
penny whistle respectively -- plus John Lundbom on guitar (and
banjo), Moppa Elliott on bass, and Danny Fischer on drums. Six
songs written by Merle Haggard, plus two he's sung a lot ("San
Antonio Rose" and "Sing a Sad Song"), with avant vamps -- the
opening "Ramblin' Fever" is a real workout; great shtick, but
"If We Make It Through December" gets stuck on Irabagon's
clarinet and wobbles on for 10:05, making one doubt that we will.
Katie Bull: Freak Miracle (2009 , Innova):
Singer, from and based in New York, has at least three previous
albums since 2000. Has plaudits on her website from Jay Clayton
and Sheila Jordan. She takes similar liberties with her material --
mostly self-written, but the covers show her attack more clearly.
Joe Fonda (bass) and Harvey Sorgen (drums) are longstanding band
members; Jeff Lederer plays tenor and soprano sax and clarinet;
piano is divided between Landon Knoblock and Frank Kimbrough.
Jane Bunnett & Hilario Duran: Cuban Rhapsody
(2011, ALMA): Duets, with Cuban pianist Duran and longtime Cubanophile,
Canadian soprano saxophonist/flutist Bunnett -- her first Cuban-themed
album was Spirits of Havana in 1991 and she's never let up.
She plays more flute here but I much prefer her soprano. Seems a bit
spare with no percussion, although Duran certainly knows his stuff.
Greg Burk Trio: The Path Here (2009 , 482 Music):
Pianist, originally from Michigan, moved to Slovakia after graduation,
based in Rome now. Has a dozen albums since 2000. This one is a piano
trio, with Jonathan Robinson on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums, with a
couple curves -- Burk plays washint (a wooden flute from Ethiopia) on
one piece, Robinson some thumb piano. Both are variations I could enjoy
more of, but the piano-bass-drums is typically bright, sharp, reflective.
B+(**) [Nov. 15]
Kenny Burrell: Tenderly: Solo Guitar Concert (2009
, High Note): Eighty-year-old guitarist (must have been 78 at
the time), recapitulates a career that took off in the late 1950s,
sticking close to his craft and not complicating it by having to
work/compete with other musicians. Centerpiece is his "Ellingtonia
Montage," much like how Ellington Is Forever sits on the
pinnacle of his discography. No surprise that it runs slow or that
two-thirds through he announces his intent to play "quieter," but
by then he's probably hooked you.
The New Gary Burton Quartet: Common Ground (2011,
Mack Avenue): What's new about this Quartet, as opposed to the one
he recorded a live album with in 2009, is replacing guitarist Pat
Metheny and bassist Steve Swallow with Julian Lage and Scott Colley:
younger players, most likely cheaper too, plus they contribute songs,
so the leader is down to one in ten. (Drummer Antonio Sanchez, who
pitched in two songs, was kept over.) Probably a smart move for
Burton, but not as smart as letting Lage take the lead, and adding
a little something instead of vying for top dog.
Buzz Bros Band: Ppff Unk (2009 , Buzz Music):
Dutch group, led by guitarist Marnix Busstra, with his brother Berthil
Busstra on keyboards, Frans Van Geest on double bass, and Chris Strik
on drums, with "special guest" Simone Roerade singing two songs.
Founded in 2001, as near as I can figure out they have two albums and
some DVDs. I've run into Marnix before, on a couple of pretty good
albums with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. The keyb/guitar mix here is
often quite sweet, with or without any noticeable funk quotient.
Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Apparent Distance (2011, Firehouse
12): Cornet player, has been popping up all over the place recently, but
claims this as his "primary working ensemble." There's a lot to like about
the group -- Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Bill Lowe (bass trombone, tuba), Mary
Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) -- not least
its extreme range and diversity (almost to the point of divisiveness). Yet
even though the pieces fit together uncomfortably, neither of the most
exposive players (Hobbs, Halvorson) break out -- most likely the gravity
exuded by Filiano and (especially) Lowe keeps them in orbit.
Michael Cain: Solo (2011, Native Drum Music): Pianist,
b. 1966, AMG lists seven albums since 1990 (but missed this one, and
who knows what else). Google really wanted to dispatch me off to some
British actor. Solo piano and a bit of electronics: slow, gentle, has
Uri Caine Trio: Siren (2010 , Winter &
Winter): Piano trio, with John Hébert on bass and Ben Perowsky on
drums. I'm not much good at describing piano trios -- wish I had
a booklet to crib from, or at least get some orientation -- but
Caine is a superb jazz pianist (except when he's playing classical
music, and sometimes even that's pretty good), very fast here.
Brent Canter: Urgency of Now (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Guitarist, from Los Angeles, studied under Kenny Burrell, moved to
New York. Second album, previous self-released. Organ quartet, with
Adam Klipple or Pat Bianchi on organ, Seamus Blake on tenor sax, and
Jordan Perlson on drums. Guitar stands out, but the framework is
pretty conventional, and the only surprise with Blake is how little
he brings to the party.
Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Les Nuages en France
(2010 , Mode/Avant): Guitarist, b. 1965 in Naples, in Italy;
studied at Conservatario di Santa Cecilia in Rome, then at Musik-Akademie
in Basel, Switzerland. Website shows four previous albums, including
one as EGP (Extreme Guitar Project). Acoustic Trio adds Ken Filiano
on double bass and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion. Bass seems louder
and more pronounced than the guitar, which furtively sneaks in and
out, with a scratchy abstractness. Takeishi is superb. Record is
reportedly inspired by Fred Vargas thrillers, and the booklet provides
what appear to be lyrics (in French, with English trots), but no one
sings -- just a little something to read along.
Frank Carlberg: Uncivilized Ruminations (2011, Red
Piano): Pianist, from Finland, AMG lists nine albums since 1992 but
that's probably short. Album packaging is sort of a slate gray with
white (and light orange) type on it, which my eyes are nowhere near
up to deciphering. The music is kind of like that too: I've heard
enough to want to move on, but there is a lot of subtle contrasts
in the mix: two superb saxophonists in John O'Gallagher and Chris
Cheek, the invaluable John Hébert on bass, Michael Sarin on drums,
and Christine Correa on vocals. I often can't stand Correa's opera
voice, but this time it seems to fit naturally into the overall
William Carn: William Carn's Run Stop Run (2011,
Mythology): Trombonist, b. 1969, from Canada. First album, although
AMG lists a few dozen side credits. Quartet, with guitars (Don Scott),
basses (Jon Maharaj), and drums (Ethan Ardelli). Both Scott and Maharaj
contribute songs, as does producer David Binney.
Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously (2011,
Smog Veil): San Francisco group, led by the sax/clarinet player from
Akron who started up in rock group Tin Huey, has long worked with Tom
Waits, and occasionally thrown off odd projects on the side. Second
group album. First was a dandy, and this comes close to hitting the
same sweet spot. Leads off with one from Buddy Tate, then Coleman
Hawkins, then two (of three) Ellington tunes. Quartet with keyboard,
bass, and drums, plus a guest guitarist on a couple cuts, vocalist
Karina Denike on two, a couple more vocals by guys in the band.
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: All Out
(2011, FMR): Alto sax-drums-piano trio, the first two long-time chums
from Quebec, Lapin a Russian pianist who joined them for a slightly
earlier album on Leo, Inner Spire. The two records are roughly
equivalent: open-ended free improvs, more group than individuals, the
piano adding something but rarely distinctive.
Terri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project (2011,
Concord): Drummer, b. 1965, two 2002-04 postbop records seemed
promising -- especially the second with Greg Osby -- but her 2009
More to Say was such soggy R&B that I dumped her into
my pop jazz file. However, this one has gotten so many raves that
I thought I should check it out. She makes use of 20 musicians,
all female, most well known (e.g., horns: Ingrid Jensen, Anat Cohen,
Tineke Postma; keybs: Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen, Helen Sung; the
eight vocalists include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Carmen
Lundy, Gretchen Parlato, Diane Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson; also
credited with "commentary": Angela Davis). Several brought their
own songs; Carrington wrote 5 of 14, with Irving Berlin, Al Green,
and Lennon-McCartney the outsiders. The horn solos always come up
with something interesting, the keybs lean to fusion but aren't
swallowed by it, the vocals are, well, credible.
Bill Carrothers: A Night at the Village Vanguard
(2009 , Pirouet, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1964 in Minneapolis, has
more than a dozen albums since 1992, mostly trios, one from 2005
called Shine Ball that I especially liked (possibly because
it's the one he played prepared piano on). This is another trio,
with Nicholas Thys on bass and Dré Pallemaerts on drums, the same
group he recorded Swing Sing Songs with ten years earlier.
A disc for each set that night, both sets starting off with Clifford
Brown songs, winding up with about half originals. Not so clear at
my usual volume levels; cranking it up helped with the definition,
but I still can't come up with much to say.
James Carter Organ Trio: At the Crossroads (2011,
Emarcy): With Gerald Gibbs on organ and Leonard King, Jr. on drums,
plus others as the opportunity arrises: trumpeter Keyon Harrold (3
tracks), guitarists Bruce Edwards or Brandon Ross (3 tracks each),
vocalist Miche Braden (2 cuts; King sings a third). Carter plays
soprano sax (1 cut), baritone (3), alto (4), and tenor (7 cuts, 2
of those also on baritone). Gibbs and King wrote one piece each;
otherwise all covers, only Ellington's "Come Sunday" (leading into
trad's "Tis the Old Ship of Zion" for a little sacred mystique)
done much; and while Jack McDuff's "Walking the Dog" is the real
spiritual center here, Carter also takes his blues refracted through
Julius Hemphill and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Braden's boisterous
vocal on "The Walking Blues" comes as a surprise four cuts in,
then no more vocals until the gospel sideline at 10-11. Nothing
wrong with the vocals -- more wouldn't have been unwelcome -- but
what you really want to hear is the saxman busting loose, which
doesn't happen often enough but is mighty wondrous when it does.
Ron Carter: Ron Carter's Great Big Band (2010 ,
Sunnyside): At one point, Morton & Cook (The Penguin Guide)
went through their big book counting names and concluded that the guy
who had appeared on the most albums was bassist Ray Brown, with just
over 300. I did a pretty comprehensive discography of William Parker
a while back and saw that he was closing in on 300 -- he's probably
topped it now, although not all of those albums would appear in any
given edition of The Penguin Guide. I've never tried that with
Ron Carter, but I've read claims that he's played on over 1000 albums.
That's hard to grasp but it's not inconceivable (figure 25 per year
for 40 years). He's certainly played on a lot -- I don't think I saw
a single one of the recent CTI reissues that he didn't play on. He
even has a lot more under his own name than I expected: AMG lists
53, but I've only picked up five. I've always found him tough to
figure, sometimes tempted to view him as someone just fortunate to
be in the right places -- above all Miles Davis's late-1960s quintet --
at the right time, but every now and then I hear something from him
that makes me wonder if he really isn't one of the foremost bassists
of his generation. This record doesn't settle anything. I think he
means us to parse the title as "(great) (big band)" rather than
"(great big) (band)" -- he's only an English horn over a standard
weight, and doesn't have a guitar. But most of the musicians are
names you'll recognize. He wrote 2 of 13 pieces, picked most of
the rest from the bebop generation (Gillespie, Stitt, Mulligan,
Lewis, Nat Adderley, Shorter, with nods to Ellington, Handy, and
Sy Oliver. Lays out plenty of solos for his stars. It's all very
neat, just not quite enough to bow you over.
Ernesto Cervini Quartet: There (2010 , Anzic):
Drummer, b. 1982, grew up in Toronto, studied there and at Manhattan
School of Music, based in New York. Second album -- first was titled
Here. Quartet: Joel Frahm (saxophones), Adrean Farrugia (piano),
Dan Loomis (bass). Mainstream group, swings, most impressive when
Frahm takes charge -- especially on tenor, but he's earned the right
to play soprano as well -- and the group, notably the pianist, keeps
up. Recorded live at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club, so everyone gets
their solo space.
Brian Charette: Learning to Count (2009 ,
SteepleChase): Organ player, fourth album since 2000 (according to
AMG and his website, although the latter doesn't list them, and the
former doesn't include one I've heard from 2008 (Missing Floor)
and a newer Music for Organ Sextette that I have a CDR of. This
is a trio, with Mike DiRubbo on alto sax and Jochen Rückert on drums --
same idea as DiRubbo's Chronos earlier this year (which had Rudy
Royston on drums), the writing credits favoring the leader in both
cases (with this one adding three covers: Wayne Shorter, John Lewis,
Steve Winwood). DiRubbo's always a terrific mainstream player, so the
main difference seems to be in the writing: Charette is wonderfully
restrained, nudging the pieces forward without showboating let alone
wallowing in soul jazz clichés. I hear a lot of organ records and
usually wonder: why bother? This works.
Cinque: Catch a Corner (2011, ALMA): I filed this
under organ player Joey DeFrancesco, but closer examination would
have given it to bassist-producer-arranger Peter Cardinali -- the
songs are attributed to the group (with Robi Botos on piano/fender
rhodes, John Johnson on saxes, and Steve Gadd on drums) except for
two covers at the end, one each from Cedar Walton and Paul Simon:
"Still Crazy After All These Years" -- they wish.
Gerald Cleaver/Uncle June: Be It as I See It (2010
, Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, from Detroit, has a half
dozen albums since 2001. No idea where the group name comes from,
but it's basically a sextet with two horns (Andrew Bishop on flute,
bass clarinet, soprano and tenor sax; Tony Malaby on soprano and
tenor sax), piano (Craig Taborn), viola (Mat Maneri), and bass
(Drew Gress), with occasional voices and a bit of guest guitar
or banjo. Can be rough and noisy, smoky, or stretch out into an
orchestration that is almost Ellingtonian.
Cloning Americana: For Which It Stands (2010 ,
Sunnyside): Postbop quartet, principally saxophonist Billy Drewes
and bassist Scott Lee who split the writing chores (score 8-to-4
for Drewes, with one joint piece, plus one by pianist Gary Versace,
none from drummer Jeff Hirshfield). Slippery modern postbop, with a
message at the end sung tentatively by Drewes, concluding "We are
all one." Back cover explains: "The above narrative is in response
to the apparent decline in the basic social values of respect,
compassion, and tolerance. Too many of those entrusted with the
honorable task of promoting and sustaining these values are failing
us, causing unnecessary inequality and suffering." Amen.
Avishai Cohen: Seven Seas (2010 , Sunnyside):
Bassist, b. 1970 in Israel, has a dozen albums since 1998, establishing
himself as a superb composer, adding electric bass to his acoustic,
even plays piano on two cuts here, and often working with oud (Amos
Hoffman here, also credited with electric guitar) suggesting a more
open Middle Eastern dialogue. Cut in Sweden with a lot of guys whose
names end in "sson" -- plus Jimmy Greene on soprano and tenor sax,
Shai Maestro on piano, and Itamar Doari on percussion. I could do
with fewer vocal passages -- booklet provides trots for three short
songs, and there are choral background passages -- the instrumental
passages are powerfully evocative.
B+(**) [August 30]
Emmet Cohen: In the Element (2010 , BadaBeep):
Young pianist -- 20 on the cover and 21 on his website -- won third
prize in this year's Monk competition. Debut album, mostly trio, with
Greg Gisbert joining on trumpet for four cuts. Postbop, pretty much
what talented young pianists do these days.
Freddy Cole: Talk to Me (2011, High Note): Crooner,
b. 1931 but didn't get going until 1990 with an album that pleaded
I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me. Twenty-some albums later, 50+
years after brother Nat died, coming off his best two albums ever,
he hardly needs an introduction. Still, he takes a batch of obscure
songs -- two Bill Withers tunes and "Mam'selle" are the only ones
I recognize -- at a very leisurely pace, dressing them up with Harry
Allen's tenor sax and Terell Stafford's flugelhorn; could hardly be
smoother, or grab you more gently.
Cecilia Coleman Big Band: Oh Boy! (2010 ,
PandaKat): Pianist, b. 1962 in Long Beach, CA; based in New York,
although she teaches part-time at Cal State Long Beach. Seventh
album since 1992; first with a big band (six reeds, standard brass,
piano, bass, and drums) -- a few names I recognize, but not many.
Wrote all the pieces. Contemporary postbop, well orchestrated but
doesn't stand out either in the solos or the crispness of the
Come Sunday: Crosscurrents (2011, self-released):
Vocal group -- Bill Brickey, Lindsay Weinberg, Alton Smith, Sue
Demel -- backed by guitar, bass, and drums, assuming the name of
the Duke Ellington song -- they also cite Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia
Jackson as inspirations. Thirteen gospel pieces, eight by trad.
Best news here is that Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Is 10 Zillion
Light Years Away" has entered the canon, but I'd much rather
hear Wonder do it.
Marc Copland/John Abercrombie: Speak to Me (2011,
Pirouet): Piano-guitar duets, both long-time masters with a history
of playing together -- I quickly found their Contact album in my
HMs, but that was fleshed out with Dave Liebman, bass, and drums.
In my note I talked about "each working their discreet charms."
Here, without the rhythmic propulsion and the commanding voice
of a harm, a better word would be "discrete."
Chick Corea/Stefano Bollani: Orvieto (2010 ,
ECM): Two pianists, nothing else, recorded live at Umbria Jazz Winter
2010. Mostly standards, including two Jobims and "Jitterbug Waltz,"
plus two stabs at the title improv. I have even more trouble with
piano duos than solos -- at least it's clear who's doing what in
them -- and there's not enough clash here to convince me when both
Patrick Cornelius: Maybe Steps (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Alto saxophonist, from San Antonio, studied at Berklee, based in New York.
Fourth (or fifth) album since 2001. Quintet with piano (Gerald Clayton),
guitar (Miles Okazaki), bass (Peter Slavov), and drums (Kendrick Scott).
Wrote 9 of 11 songs (covers Kurt Weill and George Shearing). Those are
all strong players, but little things nag at me, like the alto tone at
Corrie en de Grote Brokken: Vier! Het Beste van de Grote
Brokken (1997-2004 , Brokken): Dutch guitarist Corrie
van Binsbergen released this to mark her 25th anniversary, but the
sampler narrows in on a relatively short stretch with a big, brassy
band -- trumpet, trombone, typically three saxes, vibes or marimba,
fronted by singers Bob Fosko and Beatrice van der Poel. Lots of
flashy guitar, most of it closer to rock than to jazz, but knowing
nonethless -- I'm reminded of some of Roy Wood's early-1070s stabs
at neoclassic rock and roll, but the vibes suggest Zappa if only
I'd paid him any heed.
Larry Coryell: With the Wide Hive Players (2010
, Wide Hive): One of the original fusion guitarists -- by the
way, the answer to my question about Gary Burton's earliest quartet --
plugs in with the avant-funk house band of Gregory Howe's Berkeley
label. Sax and 'bone flesh out the heavy riffing.
Yamandu Costa/Hamilton de Holanda: Live! (2008 ,
Adventure Music): Brazilian duets. Costa plays 7-string guitar, has at
least eight albums since 2004, but this is the first I've heard; de
Holanda plays 10-string mandolin, has at least ten albums, a natural
pick once bluegrass mandolinist Mike Marshall took a major interest
in choro and launched this label. The two string instruments mesh
like classical chamber music, the attack more pronounced, mostly fast
François Couturier: Tarkovsky Quartet (2009 ,
ECM): Pianist, b. 1950 near Orléans, France; background in classical
music. AMG lists five albums since 2002. Has lately been drawing on
the filmmaker Andreï Tarkovsky (1932-86) for inspiration. Quartet
includes Jean-Marc Larché (soprano sax), Anja Lechner (cello), and
Jean-Louis Matinier (accordion).
Coyote Poets of the Universe: Pandora's Box (2011,
Square Shaped): Denver group, fifth album since 2003; I figure them
as a rock group with some jazz and world instruments -- Patty Shaw's
saxes, Mark Busi's djembe and bongos, some fiddles, banjo, an oboe
or flute -- and some spoken poetry although mostly Melissa Ingalls'
vocals. I recall last time writing Christgau to recommend a choice
cut. This time that would be "Quittin' Time" with its Lester Young
namecheck and cover note: "adult language on this track," or as my
friend Arthur translates, redeeming social content.
Shirley Crabbe: Home (2011, MaiSong): Standards
singer, studied at Northwestern and Manhattan School of Music.
First album. Has a full-featured band including Brandon Lee on
trumpet, Dave Glasser on sax, and Donald Vega on piano -- but
even with Glasser on hand she wrangled Houston Person for two
guest shots (his "Lucky to Be Me" solo a highlight). Songs jump
around, ranging from "Summertime" to Sondheim and Carole King
("Far Away"). On the right song she can be very striking --
"Detour Ahead" seems to always be the right song.
Adam Cruz: Milestone (2010 , Sunnyside):
Drummer, b. 1970 in New York City, has a lot of side credits since
1991 (Eddie Palmieri, Chick Corea, Edward Simon, David Sanchez,
Danilo Pérez, Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Ray Barretto are only
some of the names; 70-some albums), but this is his first under
his own name -- and a big one: wrote all eight pieces (long ones,
add up to 75:49). He's joined by Potter (tenor sax), either Wilson
(soprano sax) or Miguel Zenón (alto sax), Simon (piano), Steve
Cardenas (guitar), and Ben Street (bass). Brash contemporary
postbop, the horns stellar, especially when one or the other
finds some solo room.
Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination: Route de Frères
(2005 , TUM): Drummer, b. 1939 in Brooklyn, parents (mother at least)
from Haiti; has a couple dozen records since 1971 as leader, well over
100 side credits (The Hawk Relaxes seems to have been his first,
but more typical was his work in Cecil Taylor's late-1960s groups). The
Haitian connection here includes guitarist Alix Pascal and percussionist
Frisner Agustin. The others are Lisle Atkinson on bass and Hamiett Bluiett
on baritone sax: the latter's gruff but muffled sound is crucial, with
everyone else just adding to the seduction.
Mark Dagley: Mystery of the Guitar (2011, Abaton
Book Company): Guitarist, first album although he also played on
something called El Gato with Frick-the-Cat, and he seems
to have a much more substantial reputation as a visual artist --
mostly abstracts. Studied classical guitar, including a class with
André Segovia. Played in a short-lived Boston punk band called the
Girls (cf. Live at the Rathskeller 5.17.79, which I sought
out for Recycled Goods but ultimately graded B). This is solo,
folkloric in a rather oblique way, like no one else so much as
Joseph Daley Earth Tones Ensemble: The Seven Deadly Sins
(2010 , Jaro): First album by Daley, although his discography goes
back to 1971 and most of it points this way. He plays tuba and euphonium
here, with a little trombone and other low register horns on his resume.
Has mostly worked in big bands -- Gil Evans, Sam Rivers, Carla Bley,
Muhal Richard Abrams, George Gruntz, Bill Dixon -- with side roles in
Howard Johnson's Gravity and Bill Cole's Untempered Ensemble. Huge group
here, lots of guys you know -- Marty Ehrlich, Scott Robinson, Lew Soloff
(I presume, notes say Lou), Eddie Allen, Craig Harris, Vincent Chancey,
Onaje Allan Gumbs, Warren Smith, Satoshi Takeishi, and a quorum of the
tuba players union, including Howard Johnson and Bob Stewart. Fast,
slick, complex, oh so deep.
John Daversa: Junk Wagon: The Big Band Album (2011,
BFM Jazz): Trumpet player, also EVI. Second album, both Big Band;
has pretty scattered side credits -- Burt Bacharach, Fiona Apple,
Kim Richmond, Yellowjackets, Andrae Crouch. Title cut leans toward
hip-hop, but backs away, and I don't have any idea what he really
wants to do, other than be a bit different. "Cheeks" is an example
that delivers both on textures and solo, which is what you hope
for in a big band.
Norman David and the Eleventet: At This Time (2011,
CoolCraft): Soprano saxophonist, composer, wrote a textbook called
Jazz Arranging; b. in Montreal, moved to US in 1970s, since
1979 in Philadelphia, where he's Artist-in-Residence at Temple U.
Second album, after a 2001 quartet. The Eleventet comes in just shy
of big band weight, with four reeds instead of five, two trumpets
and two trombones instead of four each -- as flexible but puts less
emphasis on section muscle. A few names: George Garzone, Dick Oatts,
Tim Hagans, John Hébert. Strong solo spots, neatly arranged.
Roger Davidson Quintet: Brazilian Love Song (2009
, Soundbrush): Pianist, b. 1952 in France but grew up in New
York; has 11 albums since 2000's Mango Tango, all keyed to
Latin rhythms, the majority Brazilian. Silly of me to have ignored
this for a year now -- the title on the spine, the cartoonish cover
in the Brazilian national colors, the "30 years of Brazilian music"
blurb seemed unappealing, but the fine print suggests otherwise:
Davidson (whose name isn't visible on the spine) himself has been
more and more impressive each time out, well on his way to becoming
a Latin pianist-of-all-trades like Dick Hyman. Also turns out that
instead of recycling moldy bossa novas, he composed all the music --
dating some pieces as far back as 1978, so he's recycling his files.
Also Pablo Aslan produced -- the Argentine bassist, I've never seen
him associated with a dud project yet. The Quintet is Brazilian
where it counts -- Paulo Braga on drums and Marivaldo Dos Santos
on percussion -- and Aaron Heick's sax doesn't let anyone get too
Kris Davis: Aeriol Piano (2009 , Clean Feed):
Pianist, originally from Canada, based in New York. Has several
excellent records, but they've mostly featured top saxophonists
like Tony Malaby. This one is solo piano, inevitably a little
thin but interesting nonetheless, especially for her rhythmic
workings. Note that the inside photos show her leaning over the
box, not operating the keys.
Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1
(1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): Something like this was
inevitable -- especially since the DVD was slipped into the 70-CD
Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection (now
no longer complete) -- and the Vol. 1 promises more are in
the works. (For comparison, Legacy's Dylan Bootleg series
is up to Vol. 9.) The sets were recorded Oct. 11-Nov. 7,
1967, which slots this between Nefertiti and Miles in
the Sky in the Davis discography, midway in an empty stretch
as far as live recordings go. The group is the Quintet you know
so well: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams.
The set lists recycle, with "Agitation" leading off the first two
CDs and both sets on the DVD -- it has a strong trumpet lead to
set the stage. Sophisticated music but not so exciting: on the
DVD the group is focused, cool and workmanlike, no excess motion
or emotion. Not a major find, but a remarkable group.
Dead Cat Bounce: Chance Episodes (2010 ,
Cuneiform): Basically, a saxophone quartet (Matt Steckler, Jared
Sims, Terry Goss, Charlie Kohlhase) plus bass (Dave Ambrosio)
and drums (Bill Carbone). Fourth album since 1998. The quartet
are just creditd with saxophones and woodwinds, and I don't
know them well enough to pick them out from the photo (except
that I figure Kohlhase for the baritone). Steckler wrote all
the pieces, liner notes too. I've always had problems with the
monophonic tones and limited harmonics of sax quartets, but the
bass seems to tie them all together, as well as pick up the pace,
and this group is really impressive when they pick up a full head
Chuck Deardorf: Transparence (2007-10 , Origin):
Bassist (upright, electric, fretless), b. 1954, based in Seattle, teaches
at Cornish College of the Arts. First album, but has 40-50 side credits,
going back to Don Lanphere in 1984. Wrote 1.5 of 10 pieces here (the
co-credit with pianist Bill Mays), with two more pieces by musicians on
the record (Bruce Forman, Jovino Santos Neto). Looks like the pieces
were recorded over several years with various combos yet the flow
together remarkably well, mostly due to the four guitarists.
Deep Blue Organ Trio: Wonderful! (2010 ,
Origin): Booklet says "Recorded December 18, 19 and 20, 2011" --
I'm pretty sure that's just wrong, not prophetic. Chris Foreman
plays organ, Bobby Broom guitar, Greg Rockingham drums. Group
has four albums since 2004. This one is all Stevie Wonder songs,
although scarcely any register with me as such. Presumably that's
because jazz guys like to change things around. On the other
hand, I find the faint overtones vaguely annoying.
Joey DeFrancesco: 40 (2011, High Note): Hammond
organ player, b. 1971, probably the most celebrated, no doubt also
most prolific (AMG lists 28 albums) of his generation. Albums is
named for his age -- something I missed when unpacking. Trio with
Rick Zunigar on guitar and Ramon Banda on drums. Zunigar has three
albums on his own -- one titled Organ Trio -- and side work
with Stevie Wonder, but isn't much of a factor here. The leader,
however, has a knack for conjuring up gritty tones, serving them
The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Volume Two
(2008 , Origin): Volume One is an HM in my ill-fated last
Jazz CG column, and this is the same thing only with more faux pas --
DeMerle's Louis Armstrong impression, for one. The setup is that DeMerle
plays drums and sings in an amusedly offhanded way, while wife/vocalist
Bonnie Eisele takes the straight leads. The band is your basic Hot Club --
violin (Willie Wainwright), guitar (Tom Conway and Phil Benoit), and bass
(Marcus Johnson) -- and a couple guests drop in. Think Louis Prima and
Keely Smith, but DeMerle isn't as funny, and Eisele isn't as stuck up.
Claire Dickson: Scattin' Doll (2009-10 , NDR):
Standards singer, b. 1997 -- that's right, 13 years old or less when
she cut this, her first album. I certainly wouldn't have guessed her
age, especially third track in when she growls and scats her way
through "Black Coffee" -- a song that ages all who touch it. She
doesn't have an especially memorable voice, and there's nothing very
distinctive about her phrasing, but she shows some sass and class
in her songs, and can scat credibly. Three cuts have horns, which
help but are front-loaded, so the record tails off a bit.
Chris Dingman: Waking Dreams (2011, Between Worlds
Music): Vibraphonist, from San Jose, CA; studied at Wesleyan, which
put him in Anthony Braxton's orbit, but closer to home under Jay
Hoggard. Based in New York. Has side credits since 2004 with Steve
Lehman, Harris Eisenstadt, Ambrose Akinmusire. First album, with
Akinmusire on trumpet, Loren Stillman on sax, Fabian Almazan on
piano, plus bass, drums, and occasional guests. Open textures, lots
Mike DiRubbo & Larry Willis: Four Hands, One Heart
(2010 , Ksanti): Alto sax-piano duo. DiRubbo is b. 1970, has
six previous albums since 1999, mostly mainstream labels, consistently
makes a strong impression. Willis is 30 years older (b. 1940), has
played a bit of everything; rarely got his name up front before 1990,
but has a couple dozen albums since; is a thoughtful accompanist,
doing a nice job of setting up and fleshing out the sax. One original
each, six covers mostly bop era; "Star Eyes" always gets my attention.
Jack Donahue: Parade: Live in New York City (2010
, Two Maples): Singer, based in New York, fourth album --
all covers here but I don't know about previous albums and his
website suggests he writes some. Draws twice each on Jimmy Webb
and Harold Arlen (one with Mercer, the other with E.Y. Harburg --
spelled Yarburg on the back cover). Backed with piano-bass-drums
plus trumpet (Marcus Parsley) on one cut. Voice sticks with you,
and he seems like a likable crooner.
Armen Donelian: Leapfrog (2010 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1950 in New York, parents Armenian, his father barely
escaping from the massacres in Ottoman Turkey. Has a dozen albums
since 1980, a few more side credits, notably with Billy Harper and
Mongo Santamaria. Postbop quintet with Marc Mommaas (tenor sax),
Mike Moreno (guitar), Dean Johnson (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey
(drums). Mommaas is a strong figure here, able both to slip in
behind the piano and bull his way to the front. Still, the cut I
like best is "Mexico" where he lays out, letting the guitar sway
gently around the piano, a lush tropical breeze.
Chris Donnelly: Metamorphosis (2011, Alma): Pianist,
based in Toronto; second album, solo like the first, this time the
50:43 title piece broken into ten movements. Better when he was
covering other people. Better when he played his own stuff but
didn't have to hack it into an überconcept. Better when he wore
Dave Douglas: Rare Metals [Greenleaf Portable Series Volume
1] (2011, Greenleaf Music): One of three new albums, each
with different groups pursuing different facets of Douglas's art.
This is Brass Ecstasy -- four brass horns, Vincent Chancey on French
horn, Luis Bonilla on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Douglas
on trumpet, along with Nasheet Waits on drums. Third recent album
by the group. Five originals, starting with a piece called "Town
Hall" that brings the old brass band era back to life, but even
more striking is the lone cover, a decidedly ascetic "Lush Life."
Dave Douglas: Orange Afternoons [Greenleaf Portable Series
Volume 2] (2011, Greenleaf Music): Postbop quintet, with
stars Ravi Coltrane on sax and Vijay Iyer on piano, rising stars
Linda Oh on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. All Douglas originals.
The sort of thing Douglas did a lot of a decade ago -- and which
I found annoying more often than not, ultimately throwing my hands
up and figuring I'm just not smart enough to follow him. Not sure
which of us is mellowing out, but I will note that neither Coltrane
nor Iyer break out, which must mean they're pinned down by the
Dave Douglas/So Percussion: Bad Mango [Greenleaf Portable
Series Volume 3] (2011, Greenleaf Music): So Percussion is
a quartet -- Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Eric
Beach -- postclassical in orientation (Steve Reich's Drumming
was their second album), although like Kronos Quartet they like to
circulate. Ten or more albums since 2004. This is their most obvious
jazz connection, and their group dynamics are so tight I'm tempted
to call this a trumpet-percussion duo. Good spot for Douglas to let
it fly, and the opening "One More News" makes good of that.
Lajos Dudas/Hubert Bergmann: What's Up Neighbor?
(2011, Jazz Sick): Clarinet-piano duets, writing credits evenly
distributed, although much of this feels improvised. Leans a bit
toward the wayward abstract, not unlike the 1960s work of Jimmy
Giuffre and Paul Bley.
Phil Dwyer Orchestra: Changing Seasons (2011, ALMA):
Composer, big band leader, plays saxophone and piano (only briefly
here), b. 1965 in Canada; has at least three albums. This one adds
a "Featuring Mark Fewer" byline -- Fewer plays the violin leads,
and arranged the strings that supplement (and usually overshadow)
the big band. Closer to classical than to jazz -- all swish and no
swing -- with four movements, each named for a season.
Echoes of Swing: Message From Mars (2010 ,
Echoes of Swing): Retro-swing group, based in Germany, recorded
this (their fifth) album in Austria. Quartet: Colin T. Dawson
(trumpet, b. England), Chris Hopkins (alto sax, b. US but moved
to Germany when he was young), Bernd Lhotzky (piano), and Oliver
Mewes (drums). Dawson sings two songs -- the Chet Baker style
on a Billie Holiday song ("Don't Explain") is a striking effect.
Lhotzky rearranges some Chopin, and there's a piece from Dmitri
"Schostakowitsch," but Teddy Wilson and Ellington are the more
Yelena Eckemoff: Grass Catching the Wind (2009-10 ,
Yelena Music): Pianist, from Moscow, moved to US in 1991. Website lists
17 albums, doesn't give dates -- probably start in early 1990s -- but
divides them up as 4 classical, 2 vocal, and 11 "original instrumental"
albums, including one that came out after this one (Flying Steps,
with Derek Oleszkiewicz and Peter Erskine; don't have it). This is a
piano trio, cut in Copenhagen with Mads Vinding on bass and Morten Lund
on drums. All originals. Most have strong rhythm and I always like that
in a pianist, along with crisp and clever fingerwork.
Yelena Eckemoff: Flying Steps (2010 , Yelena
Music): Pianist, born and raised in Moscow, with one of those rigorous
Soviet educations in classical music. Moved to US in 1991. Classical
music dominates her discography, but she's edged into jazz and produced
several more-than-credible trio records. This one includes Darek
Oleszkiewicz on bass and Peter Erskine on drums.
Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet: Frog Leg Logic (2011,
Clean Feed): Plays alto sax, soprano sax, and flute, leading a quartet
with James Zollar (trumpet), Hank Roberts (cello), and Michael Sarin
(drums). Strong interplay for most of the way -- the flute, of course,
is the weak link. Zollar usually lurks in the background, but when he
gets a solo shot he reminds you how underrated he is.
Harris Eisenstadt: September Trio (2010 , Clean
Feed): Drummer, has tended lately to rig his records to emphasize his
compositions rather than his position. Trio includes Ellery Eskelin
(tenor sax) and Angelica Sanchez (piano), so this lacks the drive and
connectivity that a bassist should add: it runs a bit slow, muted, but
spacious. Been hearing a lot from Eskelin lately, and I'm afraid that
I've fallen uncritically in love with all of it. The pianist holds up
her end too.
Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (2010 , Concord):
Pianist, b. 1960 in Brazil, AMG lists 23 albums since 1986. Not sure
when she started singing -- certainly by 1997's Sings Jobim,
which I found utterly dreamy. Her voice is in the affectless Astrud
Gilberto tradition, a bit more accommodating and gracious. While I
routinely complain about American singers and their "obligatory
Jobim" picks, she nails her turf down -- OK, no Jobim here, but
Gilberto Gil joins in for three cuts, and her guitar and percussion
picks are near perfect. The songs in English, including "My Cherie
Amour" and the slowed down title cut, are impeccably cool, and she
scats her way through "Take Five" with Randy Brecker adding a bit
of highlight. I will complain about the photography: not that she's
getting too old for cheesecake, but the lighting makes her look
strangely pale and purple.
Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble: Inana (2011, Pi):
Trumpet player, b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical
music at DePaul before wandering into jazz. Third album since 2003.
Like several other prominent second generation hyphenated-Americans,
he looks back to his ancestral land for a unique angle on jazz --
the two rivers, of course, the Tigris and Euphrates. Sextet mixes
Arab classicists with avant-jazzbos -- Ole Mathisen (tenor/soprano
sax), Zafer Tawil (oud, perussion), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), Carlo
DeRosa (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) -- for a dense, somber sound.
Empirical: Elements of Truth (2011, Naim Jazz):
English quartet: Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Lewis Wright (vibes),
Tom Farmer (bass), Shaney Forbes (drums); Farmer does most of the
writing, followed by Facey (2) and Wright (1). Third album since
2007. Sax lines are cutting edge postbop, the vibes adding a light
and flighty contrast.
John Escreet: The Age We Live In (2010 ,
Mythology): Pianist, b. 1984 in Doncaster, UK; moved to New York
2006. Third album since 2008: quartet with David Binney (alto
sax, electronics), Wayne Krantz (guitar), and Marcus Gilmore
(drums, percussion), but adds extra musicians -- brass (Brad
Mason, Max Seigel) and strings (Christian Howes, credited with
the whole kaboodle not just violin). The electronics are the
clue: Escreet plays more electric keyb than acoustic piano,
and the overall vibe pushes into fusion territory. Binney is a
bright spot, and this is similar to his Graylen Epicenter
(on the same label). Can't say much about the strings, and
suspect it's just as well I didn't notice.
European Movement Jazz Orchestra: EMJO: Live in Coimbra
(2010 , Clean Feed): Can parse the cover at least two ways -- e.g.,
artist could just as well be "EMJO [European Movement Jazz Orchestra].
Group was formed in 2007 "with the idea of being the cultural ambassador
of Germany, Portugal, and Slovenia during the time of their presidency
of the European council." Those nations seem to cover the many names I
don't recognize in this slightly enlarged big band (5 trumpets, 5 reeds,
4 trombones, piano, guitar, 2 basses, drums) -- Benny Brown is the only
name that looks unaccounted for, although I can't swear the obvious East
Europeans (Markovic, Kopac, Pukl, Draksler, Modern Kukic) are all from
Slovenia. Isidor Leitinger conducts. Five of six pieces come from five
different band members. In conception combines fado and "Blasmusik" and
"Slovenian poetry"; in effect, postmodern but not quite free, with an
Falkner Evans: The Point of the Moon (2010 ,
CAP): Pianist, originally from Oklahoma, played for a while with
Asleep at the Wheel, moved to New York in 1985 and went into jazz,
notably with Cecil McBee. Fourth album since 2002. Aside from the
last two cuts, this is a pretty typical hard bop group, with Greg
Tardy (tenor sax), Ron Horton (trumpet), Belden Bullock (bass),
and Matt Wilson (drums), the stereotypical postbop jazz sound.
Shifts a bit at the end, with Gary Versace sitting in on the last
two cuts, one on organ, the other on accordion. Both slow the
pace, blunt the horns, and the latter slips in a little tango.
Orrin Evans: Freedom (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, b. 1976 in Trenton, NJ, raised and based in Philadelphia,
studied at Rutgers with Kenny Barron. Has a dozen-plus albums
since 1994. Seven of nine cuts are piano trio here, with Dwayne
Burno on bass and either Byron Landham or Anwar Marshall on drums.
The other two cuts add Larry McKenna on tenor sax. First trio cut
is up and strong -- song is by Charles Fambrough, one of three
people the album is dedicated to -- but the sax cut drops the
piano into the background, as happens again late in the album
when the piano finally reasserts itself.
FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse (2005 ,
TUM): Name comes from a fortunate combination of initials: Joe Fonda
(bass), Barry Altschul (drums), and Billy Bang (violin), whose death
last year makes this all the more precious. Group did a previous
album together, in 2003, Transforming the Space (CIMP) -- a
record I like at least as much as this one.
Jeff Fairbanks' Project Hansori: Mulberry Street
(2009-10 , Bju'ecords): Trombone player, studied at University
of South Florida, now based in New York. First album (only one of 4
side credits AMG lists looks right). Korean-themed big band project --
presumably wife (and guest cellist) Heun Choi Fairbanks has something
to do with the interest. Baritone saxophonist Fred Ho, whose Afro Asian
Music Ensemble set the standard for this sort of thing, gets a "with
special guest" credit on the front cover, but only appears on two
tracks. There are spots where the Korean rhythms and tones emerge,
but mostly a pretty solid big band record.
Kali. Z. Fasteau/William Parker/Cindy Blackman: An Alternate
Universe (1991-92 , Flying Note): New release, comes
out same time as the reissue of Prophecy, a more scattered
1993 album documenting this same period -- guess you can call these
outtakes. Fasteau has worked through several permutations of her
name -- no idea why the period in "Kali." appeared, but "Z." once
appeared as Zusann. She was b. 1947, childhood split between New
York and Paris, lived in sixteen countries, picked up instruments
from most of them. She married Donald Rafael Grant, a bassist who
also played clarinet with Coltrane in his latter avant-garde phase;
fifteen years her senior, he died in 1989, which is about the point
when Fasteau started her solo career. (A compilation of her 1975-77
work with Garrett, Memoirs of a Dream, is fascinating.) She
plays a dozen-plus instruments, none especially well although she is
a fearless risktaker and sometimes makes it pay off. Here she rotates
between cello, soprano sax, and electric piano, with bassist Parker
on all tracks, drummer Blackman on 5 (of 8). The cello seems to grow
out of Parker's bass, full of razor edges. The soprano is rough and
warbly. The electric piano is played more for toy percussion, held
back to let the bass and drums wander.
Fattigfolket: Park (2010 , Ozella Music):
Scandinavian quartet -- recorded this in Norway, at least one
previous album in Denmark; not sure where all the musicians come
from: Gunnar Halle (trumpet), Halvard Godal (sax, clarinet),
Putte Johander (bass), Ole Morten Sommer (drums). Eleven songs
named for parks or parklike locales (like "Grunewald"). Free
but not very fleet, hemmed in by their folk jazz hypothesis.
Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (2010
, Not Two):
[was: A-] A
Agustí Fernández: El Laberint de la Memória (2010
, Mbari Musica): Pianist, b. 1954 in Spain; AMG credits him
with 12 albums, Discogs with 24, his own website claims 50 but
doesn't list that many -- earliest one listed is 1987. This would
be his eighth solo album, with a large percentage of the rest duos.
Nothing fancy here, but every step seems meticulously thought out,
precise and evocative.
Joe Fiedler Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (2011, Yellow
Sound Label): Trombonist, based in New York (since 1993), fourth
album since 2005. First was a daunting tribute, Plays the Music
of Albert Mangelsdorff. This is a trio with John Hebert and
Michael Sarin, the sort of thing that puts the horn constantly on
the spot. And he proves to be as inventive as his German mentor,
while avoiding the squawk and whine that suggested to me horses
Scott Fields & Multiple Joyce Orchestra: Moersbow/OZZO
(2009 , Clean Feed): Guitarist, from Chicago, has a couple dozen
albums since 1993, about as close as anyone to being an American analog
to Derek Bailey. Doesn't play here; instead conducts MJO through a 13:54
piece dedicated to Merzbow and the much-longer 4-part "OZZO." MJO was
founded in 2008 by Frank Gratkowski (alto sax), Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba),
and Matthias Schubert (tenor sax), with 24 members credited here -- a
little bit of everything (except guitar), including computer and analog
electronics. Has that scratchy, abstract feel, but is rarely without
interest, and more pleasing than anyone would expect.
5 After 4: Rome in a Day (2011, Alma): Toronto,
Canada group, looks like this is their seventh album -- website
says five but I count six there (not including this one); don't
have date info, and AMG (sharp as ever) only lists this one.
Drummer Vito Rezza wrote 7 of 11 pieces; keyboardist Matt Horner
3, with one group improv. Johnny Johnson plays "woodwinds"; Peter
Cardinali bass and organ, and gets credit for horn arrangements.
Postbop, gets a little soft and slick as Johnson moves up-register
from tenor and Horner switches to Rhodes or organ.
The Flail: Live at Smalls (2010 , Smalls
Live): New York quintet: Dan Blankinship (trumpet), Stephan Moutot
(tenor sax), Brian Marsella (piano), Reid Taylor (bass), Matt
Zebroski (drums). Second album (I think: AMG lists this one,
CDBaby has another one; their own website is utterly useless --
can't believe people pay money for design like that). Figure
post-hard bop, but the horns and piano can pick up and run away
from the pack. Runs 71 minutes, and never lets up.
The Flail: Live at Smalls (2010 , Smalls
Live): Post-hardbop quintet, fast and tight over a 71-minute set.
I got so flustered at their Flash-only website that I gave up and
vented, unable to ferret out their discography or biographies
which turn out all to be there somewhere, so I missed 2 of 4
records going back to 2002 -- they do play like a band that's
hung together for quite some time. Maybe I was too busy trying to
shut down the sound that erupts every time you click anything --
I was, after all, trying to listen to their CD at the time. Or
maybe I was just annoyed at having to fight through layers of
PDF for a couple paragraphs of text, or scroll through those
idiot Flash text widgets. God, I hate Flash! But if you're in the
market for a fully tricked out, highly counterintuitive website,
check out theflail.com --
must be someone's labor of love, for this sort of thing doesn't
come easy. As for the CD:
Joel Forrester/Phillip Johnston: Live at the Hillside Club
(2010 , Asynchronous): The two principals of the Microscopic Septet,
which has been making interesting music since 1981 -- most recently, see
Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk. Here they play as a
duo, Forrester on piano, Johnston on soprano sax, which gives you a bare
framework of their act and repertoire. Four Monk songs, one from Johnston,
the rest Forrester. Tempting to say this would be great if they'd just
flesh it out a little: bass and drums, some extra horns with a little
more weight like a baritone sax, maybe the marvelous Michael Hashim.
Four: On a Warm Summer's Evenin' (2010, Jazz Hang):
Idaho group, nominally a saxophone quartet with Mark Watkins (soprano,
alto), Brent Jensen (alto), Sandon Mayhew (tenor, and Jon Gudmundson
(baritone). I'm familiar with Jensen, who has several good records on
Origin. Everyone else is new to me, especially the group's de facto
leader, Watkins, who wrote or arranged everything (9 originals, 3
covers, one by Coltrane, one more that might as well be -- "Chim Chim
Cheree" -- and "My Funny Valentine"). Watkins teaches at BYU-Idaho,
another new one on me: the former Ricks College in Rexburg, ID, an
LDS-owned institution with nearly 15,000 students (more than the
population of Rexburg as recently as 1990 -- Salon called it "the
reddest place in America" after Bush got 93% of the vote in 2004).
The group is supplemented by the BYU-Idaho Faculty Jazz Ensemble
(rhythm section), including guitarist Corey Christiansen, and a
much larger Faculty and Alumni band/orchestra/jazz ensemble, which
gives Watkins a lot to arrange. This has spots that get cluttered,
but for the most part everyone is well-behaved and it all grows
into a warm, luxurious flow.
The Four Bags: Forth (2010 , NCM East):
Chamber jazz group, combining trombone (Brian Drye), accordion
(Jacob Garchik), guitar (Sean Moran), and clarinet/bass clarinet
(Michael McGinnis). Fourth album since 2000. I reckon the lack
of bass and/or drums seals them into the chamber realm -- no
chance of getting swept away in the rhythm -- but they have an
impressive sonic density, especially when Moran's guitar turns
on the juice.
Fourthought: Fourthought (2010 , Nambulo Music):
New York quartet's eponymous debut album, with two principals writing
all but one cover ("Green Dolphin Street") -- Nicholas Biello (alto sax,
soprano sax) and Manuel Weyand (drums) -- plus Kerong Chok (piano,
Fender Rhodes) and Cameron Kayne (bass). Weyand (b. Germany) and Biello
met at Manhattan School of Music; Kayne hails from Buffalo, Chok from
Singapore. Smart postbop, some bite to the alto.
Ken Fowser/Behn Gillece: Duotone (2010 ,
Posi-Tone): Sax/vibes respectively, Fowser pictured on the cover
with a tenor, Gillece with mallets. Gillece wrote 8 of 10, Fowser
the other two. Gillece has nothing under his own name, but he
appeared on Fowser's two previous records. Quintet with Donald
Vega (piano), David Wong (bass), Willie Jones III (drums).
Straight mainstream postbop, faster than usual (a good idea).
Fred Fried and Core: EnCore (2011, Ballet Tree):
Guitarist, b. 1948 in Brooklyn, influenced by George Van Eps who
led him to the 7-string guitar on most of his 10 records -- here
he moves on to an 8-string. Trio with bass (Michael Lavoie) and
drums (Miki Matsuki). Take a middle road and works out intricacies
Erik Friedlander: Bonebridge (2011, Skipstone):
Cellist, more than a dozen albums since 1995; not sure that you can
find anyone else in jazz history who's done more notable music with
the instrument. Inevitably, cello suggests chamber music, with a
focus on composition feathered out with multiple strings, which is
what you get here with: Doug Wamble (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass),
and Mike Sarin (drums).
Bill Frisell: All We Are Saying . . . (2011, Savoy
Jazz): Framed as an album of John Lennon songs, although 7 of 16 are
of a vintage where they also credit Paul McCartney. Doesn't seem to
have been intended as a deep conviction tribute; rather, something
that Frisell got roped into trying on a tour and like the sound of.
From his liner notes: "This wasn't my idea. I didn't ask to do it.
Ever since I've entered into the world of music, I've never really
had to figure out what to do. The music always tells you what to do,
where to go. There's always something new waiting right there in
front of you." That something is the guitarist's logic in picking
around a melody, so striking early on when he attacked artists as
diverse as Ives and Madonna, honed over 40+ albums into an ingenious
reflexive style. His intuitive approach fares about as well as any
with the Beatles' songs -- a common temptation to people who grew
up with them (Frisell was b. 1951) hoping to modernize the standards
songbook, one that has almost never succeeded. With Greg Leisz on
steel guitar and Jenny Scheinman on violin, plus Tony Scherr on bass
and Kenny Wollesen on drums, the string sound is pure and saccharine
sweet -- something one tires of, although it's unlikely that the
opener, "Across the Universe," will ever sound more sumptously
Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Watershed (2009
, Libra): Min-Yoh means folk music in Japanese, and three
(of eight) songs here are identified as "Japanese traditional folk" --
the others are Fujii originals. Not knowing anything about Japanese
folk music that can't be reduced to traditional instruments (none
such here, but there are some vocals), I'm at a loss. Fujii plays
piano, along with Andrea Parkins (accordion), Curtis Hasselbring
(trombone), and Natsuki Tamura (trumpet). Accordion mostly adds
density, and trombone darker tones.
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Eto (2010 ,
Libra): Prolific Japanese pianist -- a quick count shows 17 Jazz CG
records for her and/or her husband-trumpeter Natsuki Tamura. Among
many other groups, she runs four big bands, three based in Japan
plus this all-star outfit in New York, on their 8th album together
here. The big thing here is the 14-part "Eto Suite," plus three
shorter pieces. Strong solos but less hectic than previous albums,
with some nicely arranged stretches.
Curtis Fuller: The Story of Cathy & Me (2011,
Challenge): Trombonist, b. 1934 in Detroit, came up in hard bop bands --
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet --
as well as credits with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Clark, Bud
Powell, Cannonball and Nate Adderley, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy
Smith, Joe Henderson, Dizzy Gillespie, lots of guys who are long dead.
Cathy was Fuller's wife, the former Catherine Rose Driscoll, who also
died in 2010. No idea when they met and married, a detail that slipped
through the cracks of an otherwise generous booklet. The album is
broken up into three sections separated by spoken word "interludes."
Two vocals by Tia Michelle Rouse also chop up the flow, which traces
a grand arc from upbeat youth to solemn age.
Hal Galper Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic (2011,
Origin): Veteran pianist, b. 1938, has thirty-some albums since
1971, including some real gems -- some I've noticed: Portrait
(1989), Just Us (1993), Art-Work (2009). Trio with
his label's ace rhythm section: Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop
on drums. Three originals, four covers ("Guess I'll Hang Out My
Tears to Dry," "Be My Love").
Rob Garcia 4: The Drop and the Ocean (2011,
Bju'ecords): Drummer, grew up in the Bronx (Pelham), studied at NYU
and SUNY Purchase. Has at least two previous records (since 2005),
short list of side credits. Quartet: Noah Preminger (tenor sax),
Dan Tepfer (piano), John Hebert (bass). The first two are young
guys who have gotten a lot of notice for their own albums; Hebert
is one of those bassists who makes everything better.
Giacomo Gates: The Revolution Will Be Jazz: The Songs of
Gil Scott-Heron (2010-11 , Savant): Singer, says
somewhere he was 40 in 1990, so figure b. 1950; drove trucks,
worked on the Alaska Pipeline, tried singing in Fairbanks bars
but didn't get very far; moved to Connecticut, cut a record in
1995, four more since. Attracted to Jon Hendricks and vocalese,
also a source of Scott-Heron's music. (Let me interject that
I've long had a kneejerk reaction to the flamboyant hipsterism
of vocalese, and that turned me off from Scott-Heron's albums,
regardless of how appealing the politics were.) Gates thought
about doing a Scott-Heron albums back in the early 1990s, but
didn't get going on it until Scott-Heron returned after a 13
year hiatus with I'm New Here last year. Then Scott-Heron
died at 62 on May 27 this year, a few weeks before this arrived
in the mail. Avoids the most overtly political tracts in favor
of the jazz legacy, sentimentalizes "New York City," keeps the
hopes and prayers alive, but also the "Gun" dilemma. A deeper,
more measured singer, who can scat but doesn't have to. Limits
the horns to two cuts, using Claire Daly on baritone once and
on flute for "Winter in America," where it belongs.
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette: Open Source (2011,
Cryptogramophone): Violinist, was involved in Vinny Golia's Nine
Winds label back in the 1990s and launched Cryptogramophone around
2000, which has taken Golia's avant-garde tendencies and turned
them into something more commercial -- Nels Cline is the label's
star. Gauthier himself has five albums on the label (seven total).
In this one four (of six) musicians are credited with effects --
Gauthier, John Fumo (trumpet), Nels Cline (guitar), and David
Witham (keyboards, accordion) -- leaving only bass (Joel Hamilton)
and drums (Alex Cline) with no extra tricks. The result is a
semi-fusion, often impressive especially when everyone works
Glows in the Dark: Beach of the War Gods (2010
, self-released): Richmond, VA quintet: Scott Burton (guitar),
Scott Clark (drums), John Lilley (alto & tenor sax), Reginald
Pace (trombone), Cameron Ralston (bass). Burton writes, aside from
the four group-credited "Violent Rome" pieces. Draws inspiration
from soundtracks, which this on occasion slouches into. Otherwise
they can mount an interesting presence.
Otzir Godot: Kas Kas (2009, Epatto): Drummer, from
Finland. First record, a few years old now, got it along with a new
one. All improvised. Five cuts are duos with saxophonist Ikka Kahri,
two more are duos with Robin DeWan on didgeridoo, the other four are
brief solos. The sax-drums duos are smartly balanced, engaging. The
deep hums less interesting but a nice backdrop for the percussion,
which never pushes too hard.
Otzir Godot: Drum Poems (2011, Epatto): Drummer,
from Finland, second album, plays solo using a wide, world encircling
range of percussion instruments. Thirteen pieces, mostly conceptual,
have some interest but also have their limits.
Volker Goetze Orchestra: NY 10027 (2011, G*Records):
Trumpeter, from Germany; has a previous album with kora player Ablaye
Cissoko listed first. This is a big band, recorded in New York, with
modern tendencies, not afraid to get a little mussed up, noisy even.
Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein: Bienestan (2009
, Sunnyside): Two pianists, although not a piano duet album.
Klein, the senior member less because he's four years older (b. 1970)
than because he wrote all of the originals (7.5 of 13, the fraction
an intro to "All the Things You Are" to close the album). But Goldberg
is the lead pianist, with Klein chiming in on Fender Rhodes: no track
credits between them, but seems like mostly one or the other, which
means mostly Goldberg. Also on board: Matt Penman (bass), Eric Harland
(drums), Miguel Zenon (alto sax on five cuts, including both Charlie
Parker tunes), and Chris Cheek (tenor sax on two, soprano on one, all
of those with Zenon, none by Parker). Traces of tango seep in here
and there -- Klein is from Argentina, so that's almost a given. The
rapid-fire rat-a-tat of "Human Feel," with both horns in sync, is
Vinny Golia Quartet: Take Your Time (2011, Relative
Pitch): Plays the whole range of clarinets, saxes, and flutes; b. 1946,
has been very prolific since 1977, releasing almost all of his work on
his own Nine Winds label, but occasionally strays -- Greetings From
Norma Desmond is a personal favorite. Plays soprano/alto/tenor
sax here, with Bobby Bradford on cornet, Kin Filiano on bass, and Alex
Cline on drums. This group generates a lot of heat, and while Golia's
riffing sometimes seems a bit pat (by which I mean I've never cared
for that Charlie Parker up-and-down shit), Bradford always hangs in
there and adds something interesting.
Mac Gollehon: Odyssey of Nostalgia (2011, American
Showplace Music): Trumpet player. Website is a helpless piece of
Flash, so I'm short on bio. AMG lists six albums since 1996: two
with "smokin'" in the title, one "straight ahead," one In the
Spirit of Fats Navarro. This one digs around various old blues
bags, including "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" and "Nobody Knows
You When You're Down and Out," but also "Two Sleepy People" and
"Dirtynogooder Blues" and "Over the Rainbow." Band includes Ronnie
Cuber (baritone sax, flute), Bill Easley (clarinet, alto sax),
Amina Claudine Myers (organ), Ron McClure (bass), Warren Smith
(drums), Junior Vega (congas), and features Olga Merediz's vocals
on about half of the tracks. Some work, some not so much.
Dennis González/João Paulo: So Soft Yet (2010 ,
Clean Feed): Duets, González on trumpet and cornet, Paulo (full name:
João Paulo Esteves Da Silva) on acoustic and electric piano, also
accordion. They did this once before, in 2009's Scape Grace,
but this works better, partly because Paulo's rotation keeps it
from settling into a rut, but mostly charm and intimacy.
Jerry Gonzalez: Jerry Gonzalez y el Comando de la Clave
(2011, Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1949 in New York, played congas
for Dizzy Gillespie, then moved on to Eddie Palmieri's band, then his
own Fort Apache Band. Moved to Spain around 2000, hooking up with
Flamenco musicians for Jerry Gonzalez y los Piratas del Flamenco
(recorded 2001, released 2004), and now this belated sequel. (Don't
have recording dates here. Again, Diego "El Cigala" sings, but the
focus is less on him than on the beat -- Alberto "Chele" Cobo's clave,
Israel Suarez "Piraba"'s cajon. Several standards appear -- "Tenderly,"
"Love for Sale," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Obsesion" -- and that's
where the trumpet breaks away from the distractions.
Danny Grissett: Stride (2011, Criss Cross):
Pianist, from Los Angeles, studied at Cal Arts, based in New
York. Fourth album since 2006, a trio with Vincente Archer on
bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Has very little swing, let
alone stride, to his style; basically a straight-up postbop
player with a deft touch. Three originals, five covers range
from Chopin to Tom Harrell and Nicholas Payton.
The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble: Music of Georges I.
Gurdjieff (2008 , ECM): Gurdjieff was born c. 1866,
father Greek, mother Armenian, in Armenia, then part of the Russian
Empire, and died 1949, best known as some kind of spiritual teacher --
he described what he was doing as "esoteric Christianity" or "the
fourth way." Along the way he wrote some music, often working with
Thomas de Hartmann, drawing on Central Asian folk and religious
music, Russian Orthodox liturgical music, and other sources. This
is some of that, played on traditional instruments (oud, blul, kanon,
santur, tar, saz, duduk, etc.) by a group in Yerevan, Armenia, under
the direction of Levon Eskenian. This has a preserved-in-amber air:
minimal, elegant, delicate, enchanting.
Gutbucket: Flock (2010 , Cuneiform): First squawk
out of the box sounds great, plus the song there is called "Fuck You
and Your Hipster Tie." Band consists of Ken Thomson (saxes and clarinets,
mostly alto sax), Ty Citerman (guitar), Eric Rockwin (bass, mostly
electric), and Adam Gold (drums). Fifth album since 2001. As with
several recent fusion groups, the sax (or even clarinet) gives the
guitar a sharper edge, and working that sound is the group's strong
suit. The rock rhythms, though, can get a bit sludgy.
Tim Hagans: The Moon Is Waiting (2011, Palmetto):
Trumpet player, b. 1954 in Ohio, has had a rather scattered career
with 11 albums since 1983 -- jazztronica fusion, tributes to Miles
Davis and Freddie Hubbard, seems like mostly big band work lately.
This is straightforward postbop, a quartet with Vic Juris on guitar,
Rufus Reid on bass, Jukkis Uotila on drums (and piano). Juris is
as distinctive as ever, which throws everything off just enough to
give Hagans his edge.
Randy Halberstadt: Flash Point (2010, Origin):
Pianist, b. 1953 in New York, based in Seattle, teaches at Cornish
College of the Arts; has a book, Metaphors for the Musician:
Perspectives From a Jazz Pianist, and four albums since 1991.
Quintet with Thomas Marriott (trumpet), Mark Taylor (alto sax),
Jeff Johnson (bass), and Mark Ivester (drums). Halberstadt wrote
6 of 9 pieces, covering Sam Rivers ("Beatrice"), Miles Davis
("Solar"), and "On Green Dolphin Street." Postbop. Impressed
more by the piano than by the horns, which probably help to
broaden and stabilize the record but are never what's interesting.
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone: Departure of Reason
(2011, Thirsty Ear): Guitar-viola duo: Halvorson is a frequently
astounding young guitarist, Pavone an erratic violist, both sing
some, and together they trend towards folk music, or anti-folk,
or something slightly stranger.
Sir Roland Hanna: Colors From a Giant's Kit (1990s-2002
, IPO): Pianist from Detroit, lived 1932-2002, has a couple credits
in 1959 but his discography picks up in 1971 and he remain productive to
the end. Solo piano, something he did at least a dozen albums of, from
various sessions -- annoying that I can't find a detailed accounting.
Mix of originals and covers. Can be dense and even dazzling, but I
can't latch onto anything as especially interesting.
Eric Harland: Voyager: Live by Night (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Drummer, b. 1978, first album under his own name (looks
like it was originally released in 2010 on Space Time in France;
Sunnyside picks a lot of its records off French labels), but has
a long list of credits since 1997. He wrote all but the last two
pieces here: one by Sam Rivers, and a four-part thing by pianist
Taylor Eigsti. Band includes Walter Smith III (tenor sax), Julian
Lage (guitar), Eigsti (piano), and Harish Raghavan (bass). Lage
is often dazzling, and Smith has a standout night. Drummer too.
Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/Christian Scott: Ninety Miles
(2011, Concord Picante): Three mainstream jazz stars, more or less,
visit Cuba, hooking up with two local "piano-led Cuban jazz quartets"
(meaning piano-bass-drums+percussion), one led by Rember Duharte, the
other by Harold López-Nussa. The visitors have some trouble finding
their bearings (especially the vibraphonist), but once Scott rips off
a blistering trumpet solo the tide turns, and the percussion carries
Donald Harrison: This Is Jazz: Live at the Blue Note
(2011, Half Note): Alto saxophonist, b. 1960 in New Orleans, father
was big chief of four different New Orleans Indian tribes, a family
trade Harrison followed it, although he also picked up some bebop,
worked his way through Art Blakey's boot camp, and most recently has
been playing both sides in HBO's Treme. This is the postbop
side, a trio with Ron Carter and Billy Cobham. Starts with two Carter
pieces, then a 5:39 bass solo on "You Are My Sunshine" -- the sort
of thing that doesn't come through well on record no matter how
mesmerizing it may have been live. Picks back up again with "Seven
Steps to Heaven," and closes strong on Harrison's "Treme Swagger."
Werner Hasler/Karl Berger/Gilbert Paeffgen:
Hasler/Paeffgen/Berger (2010 , NoBusiness):
Hasler plays trumpet and dabbles in electronics; b. 1969, based
in Switzerland, has a couple previous records. Berger plays vibes;
he goes back a long ways (b. 1935 in Germany). Paeffgen is a
drummer, b. 1958 in Germany, based in Switzerland. The vibes
gives this a light and slippery background, against which the
trumpet is meticulously etched. The electronics helps, too.
Roy Haynes: Roy-Alty (2011, Dreyfus): Drummer,
not of the first generation of bebop drummers but came hot on
their heels with a Zelig-like knack for being everywhere you'd
want to be: with Lester Young at the Royal Roost in 1948, with
Charlie Parker at St. Nick's in 1951, with Bud Powell and Stan
Getz and Wardell Gray and Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins -- all
by 1955; with Sarah Vaughan at Mister Kelly's in 1957, with
Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot in 1958, on Introducing
Nat Adderley. Eventually he went on to cut 30-some albums
under his own name, winning Downbeat polls in categories
like Jazz Artist of the Year. He'd be considered a grey eminence
now, except he keeps his pate shaved and no one in history ever
has looked more fit at 86. Roy Hargrove and Chick Corea get a
"featuring" sticker. The booklet also spotlights what he calls
the Fountain of Youth Band: Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Martin
Bejerano (piano), and David Wong (bass). Not sure if Corea
plays beyond his two featured spots. Hargrove is featured on
6 of 10 tracks, Shaw is impressive throughout, and the closer
(McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance") adds Marcus Strickland for a
blow out. Presumably it's Haynes talking the intro to "Tin
Tin Deo" (with Roberto Quintero's extra percussion) -- who
else can plausibly claim to have discovered Chano Pozo?
Big, bright, a celebration.
Kevin Hays: Variations (2011, Pirouet): Pianist,
13th album since 1994, not counting his recent duo with Brad Mehldau
on Patrick Zimmerli's Modern Music, which this seems to be
a study for. Twenty-four short cuts divided into three sets, most
of the pieces appearing in variations in each.
Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the
South Bank (2009 , Smalltown Superjazz, 2CD):
Hebden does laptronica under the name Four Tet, and is something
of a star as those things go. Somehow he hooked up with Reid --
a drummer, had a couple of obscure but quite good 1970s avant
records, plus a resume that includes Motown, James Brown, and
Fela Kuti; sadly, Reid died in 2010, a couple years into a very
productive comeback. Gustafsson is a Norwegian saxophonist --
plays tenor and baritone, not specified which here but sounds
like mostly bari -- has a group called the Thing, plays a lot
with Ken Vandermark and a little with Sonic Youth. He can be
unbearably noisy, but holds to an interesting range here,
adding soulful depth to the blips and beats. Length 82:55.
Thomas Heberer's Clarino: Klippe (2010 , Clean
Feed): Trumpet player, b. 1965 in Germany, based in New York since 2008.
Probably has ten or so records more/less under his own name since 1988 --
I can't find a definitive list, as well as side credits with Alexander
von Schlippenbach (including Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra) and
Misha Mengelberg (including ICP Orchestra). Trio with Joachim Badenhorst
(clarinet, bass clarinet) and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). Slow and moody,
a tone painting that never quite resolves.
Gilad Hekselman: Hearts Wide Open (2010 ,
Le Chant du Monde): Guitarist, b. 1983 in Israel, in New York
since 2004, graduating from New School and sticking around. Third
album: 6 (of 10) cuts trio with Joe Martin (bass) and Marcus
Gilmore (drums). The other four add saxophonist Mark Turner.
Intricate, poised, nice tone to the guitar. Sax doesn't really
Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Riptide (2009 ,
Clean Feed): Drummer-led quintet, with Oscar Noriega (alto sax,
clarinet, bass clarinet), Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax), Terrence
McManus (guitar), Kermit Driscoll (acoustic bass, electric bass
guitar). I assumed this would flesh out Hemingway's superb duos
with Eskelin and McManus so I latched onto their flights, but if
anything this is more tightly bound to the beat -- deliriously
so in the reggae-inspired "Backabacka" but also in the slower,
more muted pieces that preceded it, seeming to draw the record
down when really they were setting it up.
Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald: Live at Kassiopeia
(1987 , NoBusiness, 2CD): New old music from two dead guys,
likely to be missed if you have any idea who they are, and all the
more poignant for being so intimate. Kowald is the German
bassist of the 20th century, always intriguing, not least solo --
his solo Was Da Ist is a Penguin Guide crown album. Hemphill
was an alto saxophonist, best known for his harmonic explorations
with the World Saxophone Quartet and Five Chord Stud, which
left him underappreciated as a solo player. First disc here is all
solo: three 6-8 minute ones by Hemphill, a 32:20 by Kowald. They
feel like studies, something slightly above practice, nice examples
of each one's art. Second disc brings them together in three duos,
where they start out distinct and gradually merge. I'm sentimental
enough to be tempted to rate this higher, but Hemphill plays a lot
of soprano sax here, I haven't compared this to such similar fare
as his duo Live in New York with cellist Abdul K. Wadud,
and I'm unlikely to return to the solos -- although Kowald's is
probably a better intro than the daunting Wa Das Ist.
Nick Hempton: The Business (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1976, from Australia, based in New York; second
album, a quintet with Art Hirahara (piano), Yotam Silberstein (guitar),
Marco Panascia (bass), and Dan Aran (drums). Mainstream, high energy,
rarely flags. Wrote 8 of 10, covering "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You"
and "From Bechet, Byas, and Fats" (Rahsaan Roland Kirk). Gets strong
support, especially from Silberstein.
Ig Henneman Sextet: Cut a Caper (2010 ,
Stichting Wig): Dutch viola player, b. 1945, from Haarlem. Her
website lists 15 albums since 1981 -- the first two as FC Gerania,
two more as Queen Mab Trio. The Sextet has no drums, giving it a
chamber feel, but lots of options: Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet,
shakuhachi), Axel Dörner (trumpet), Lori Freedman (bass clarinet,
clarinet), Wilbert De Joode (bass), and Marilyn Lerner (piano).
Difficult terrain, but Baars is as sure-footed as I've ever heard
him, and Lerner's piano themes always get your attention, perhaps
to regroup from the horns.
Magos Herrera: México Azul (2010 , Sunnyside):
Singer, from Mexico, seventh album since 1997. This one was cut in
New Jersey with a stellar jazz group -- Tim Hagans (trumpet), Adam
Rogers (guitar), Luis Perdomo (piano), John Patitucci (bass), Alex
Kautz (drums), Rogerio Boccato (percussion) -- although I don't find
she gets much out of them. Songs are all in Spanish, evidently mostly
movie themes. Dark voice, dramatic, but one of those hard to judge
singers for those of us who don't understand the language.
Mace Hibbard: Time Gone By (2010 , MHM):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Waco, TX; studied at U. Texas in
Austin, based in Atlanta. Second album, hard-bop-style quintet
with trumpet, piano, bass and drums. Nice tone, soulful and a
High Fiddelity: Tell Me! (2004-10 , High Fiddelity):
German group, led by violinist Natalia Brunke, b. 1971 in Munich; first
or second album -- she also has a string trio called Casablanca which as
I understand it has a demo album but I can't tell how it is distributed.
Group includes piano, bass, and drums, plus vocalist Marina Trost. The
violin leads are quite charming. The vocals -- all in English, by the
way -- could use more sass, especially on a title like "My Life Is So
Damn Beautiful (Once You Left It)."
Marquis Hill: New Gospel (2011, self-released):
Trumpet player, based in Chicago, first album, a mainstream thing
with soulful integrity, the front line shared with two saxophones,
the rhythm section filled out with both piano and guitar. Modestly
runs 36:36 -- in a more commercial genre this would be counted as
Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica: Third River Rangoon (2011,
Tiki): Boston group, led by Brian O'Neill (vibes, percussion), was
a big band on their 2010 debut (Presents . . . The Unforgettable
Sounds of Esquivel), stripped down to a quartet here, with Geni
Skendo on bass flute and c-flute, Jason Davis on bass, and Noriko
Terada on percussion. Aims for 1950s exotica; comes up a bit flat.
Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: The Sweet Science
Suite (2011, Mutable/Big Red Media): Subtitled: "A Scientific
Soul Music Honoring of Muhammad Ali." Baritone saxophonist, b. 1957
in Palo Alto, CA, of Chinese descent, has built a notable career out
of bridging African, Asian, and American musics, and charging them
with political immediacy, working especially in a big band context --
the last few years he's called his group the Green Monster Band, and
they usually live up to the name. Numerous strong passages here, but
also a few rough spots, and the vocals near the end didn't connect.
[Don't have recording date. Ho has been fighting colon cancer since
2006, and at least some of his recent spate of records predate his
illness, but there's some reason to think this is more recent.]
Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: Year of the Tiger
(2004 , Innova): Pre-illness, unreleased at the time, I'd guess,
because it's a hoary mess, although it has inspired moments, ridiculous
ideas, and such an enthusiastic implementation it's hard to carp. There's
a big suite called "Take the Zen Train," offering "Optometry for the
Vision-less" and critiquing "The Violence of Virtuosity." There are
medleys of Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix -- the Jackson descends into
a long sequence of horror movie sounds on "Thriller" that cry out for
video. There's a huge people's chorus on "Hero Among Heroes" -- reminds
me of Maoist mass propaganda although I wouldn't claim that it is.
Ari Hoenig: Lines of Oppression (2009 ,
Naïve): Drummer, from Philadelphia, part of the Smalls retro
bop crowd -- cut a good album for them in 2004, The Painter.
I was looking for one called Punkbop: Live at Smalls, and
found this one instead. Quartet with Tigran Hamasyan on pianos,
Gilad Hekselman on guitar, and either Orlando Le Fleming or Chris
Tordini on bass, with various of them vocalizing, sounding rather
like tapdance. Best at high speed with everyone pounding away.
The Human Element (2011, Abstract Logix): World
fusion quartet: Scott Kinsey (synths, piano, vocoder), Arto
Tunçboyaciyan (percussion, vocals), Matthew Garrison (bass),
Gary Novak (drums). AT is by far the most accomplished member,
b. 1957 in Turkey, has at least eight records since 1989, wrote
8 of 14 cuts here, plus carries a lot of weight with his vocals.
MG may be the best known: the son of Coltrane Quartet bassist
Jimmy Garrison, mostly (always?) plays electric bass, has 3
albums and a few dozen side credits.
Jason Kao Hwang/Edge: Crossroads Unseen (2010 ,
Euonymous): Violinist, group named after a previous album; quartet with
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Ken Filiano (bass), and Andrew
Drury (drums). I find the title cut drags melodramatically -- it's not
obvious whether this is tied into Hwang's expertise in Chinese classical
music, but I get the sense that there should be actors on stage when
this plays. The rest of the pieces are more sprightly, as much affinity
to Billy Bang as we're likely to find. Don't hear much from Bynum, but
you can't go wrong with Filiano.
Jason Kao Hwang/Spontaneous River: Symphony of Souls
(2010 , Mulatta): Guess I complained too soon about Hwang's
classical inclinations. This is a full-fledged symphony, eleven
movements, played with 15 violins, 5 violas, 5 cellos, 6 basses,
and 7 guitars -- some names I recognize in the small print, but
not even the composer stands out in the dank mix. Not without its
interest, and might gain something if you cranked the volume up.
Hybrid 10tet: On the Move (2011, BBB): Cover also
mentions, in small print, "braam": that would be pianist Michiel
Braam, who put this group together and wrote their pieces. Group
is built from a classical string quartet (Matangi Quartet), a rowdy
rock rhythm section (bass and drums, anyway, plus the pianist, and
you might also factor in Carl Ludwig Hübsch's tuba), plus some
avant-jazz brass (Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Nils Wogram on trombone).
The mix is often spectacular -- as on the tango-ish "Cuba, North
Rhine-Westphalia" and the funk-noise of "Fat Centered Gravy" --
but sometimes not. (I initially suspected the strings, but it's
not quite that simple.) The pianist, as usual, has fun.
Ideal Bread: Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy
(2009 , Cuneiform): Quartet: Josh Sinton (baritone sax), Kirk
Knuffke (trumpet), Reuben Radding (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums).
Sinton is the only one I don't run into often, but he's not a total
stranger, and seems to be the leader here. Second group album.
Transposing Lacy's soprano lines to baritone gives them a new feel,
but nothing with Lacy is ever overly familiar, so this feels fresh
Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio: Clustrophy (2009
, TUM): Saxophonist (alto, baritone, soprano), b. 1978 in
Lapinjärvi, Finland. I count six albums with his name up front
since 2006, plus group albums with Gourmet, Delirium, and Triot
(Sudden Happiness was a Jazz CG pick in 2004). Three reed
players here -- Innanen, Fredrik Ljungkvist, and Daniel Erdmann,
playing various saxes, clarinets, and toy versions thereof. At
center is Seppo Kantonen on synth, much splashier than electric
piano or organ, plus there's Joonas Riippa on drums and, going
along with the toy fascination, pocket trumpet. The splattershot
noise gives you a quick jolt, especially right out of the box.
Doesn't all live up to that, but breaks out in entertaining ways.
Iron Dog: Field Recordings 1 (2005-06 , Iron
Dog Music): Sarah Bernstein on violin and voice, Stuart Popejoy on
bass guitar; website lists Andrew Drury on drums, but here drummer
is Tommaso Cappellato on 3 of 6 tracks. "Sonic landscapes," "minimalist
structures erupt[ing] into frenetic, metallic onslaughts" -- something
like that, maybe not so frenetic, but striking.
Anne Mette Iversen: Milo Songs (2011, Bju'ecords):
Bassist, composer of course, from Denmark (not clear from her bio),
studied piano at Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, bass
at Rhythmic Conservatory of Music (also Copenhagen), got a BFA at
New School in 2001. Based in New York. Fourth album since 2004, a
quartet with John Ellis (tenor sax, clarinet), Danny Grissett (piano),
and Otis Brown III (drums). Ellis is especially fine here, as he's
been on several recent records. Grissett has his spots. As for the
bassist-composer, the whole thing flows effortlessly, her role
inconspicuous, and perhaps all the more remarkable for that.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey: Race Riot Suite (2011,
Royal Potato Family): Tulsa group, recorded in Tulsa, so you know
what race riot they're talking about -- if not, see
took place in 1921, the only time I'm aware of where residential
neighborhoods in the US were bombed by aircraft. Group has been
around since the late 1990s, with close to a dozen records. Chris
Combs (lap steel, guitar) wrote and arranged all of this, except
for group improvs titled prayers. Group includes: Brian Haas
(piano), Jeff Harshbarger (bass), and John Raymer (drums), and
this time they're augmented by five horn players, including Peter
Apfelbaum (baritone sax) and Steven Bernstein (trumpet). Haas
goes all the way back to the beginning; Raymer joined in 2007,
Combs joining in 2008, Harshbarger 2010. No words, so you're on
your own figuring out why the upbeat "Black Wall Street" segues
into a gloomy piece like "The Burning." The horns tend to drown
out the core band, and while what they do is often interesting,
it doesn't quite stand on its own.
Maria Jameau and Blue Brazil: Gema (2010 ,
Challenge): Singer, b. in Boston, middle name Billings, "has played
piano for 30 years, with guitar, flute, and percussion as secondary
instruments" (none evident here), has taught at New England
Conservatory, based in Sebastopol, California, has one previous
record. This is Brazil-themed, with pieces from Ben, Jobim, others
less famous, and occasional hints of Africa. Local band includes
guitar, "electric 8-string hybrid bass & guitar," percussion,
and flute. Nicely done.
Daniel Jamieson's Danjam Orchestra: Sudden Appearance
(2010 , OA2): Big band -- 5 woodwinds, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones,
piano, bass, drums, voice (Jihne Kim) on 3 of 8 cuts, percussion on 2.
Jamieson, originally from Toronto but based in New York, composed and
conducted. First album, not many names I recognize in the orchestra.
Jim McNeely, who knows more than a little about big bands, co-produced.
Nothing very surprising here, but very solid as postbop big band goes.
Keith Jarrett: Rio (2011, ECM, 2CD): Solo piano,
recorded live in Rio de Janeiro on April 9, 2011, divided up into
Parts I-XV spread across two discs. Sounds not unlike the dozens
of other solo albums he's released since The Köln Concert
sold five million copies, except that his general trajectory,
like life itself, has been to slow down and smell the roses --
so one thing I can note is that he provides little (if any) of
his own vocal accompaniment here. I've slowed down enough myself
to find this more than moderately pleasant, although every time
rapturous applause erupts I wonder what I missed.
Jazzvox Presents: In Your Own Backyard (2009-10
, OA2): Seventeen songs (only two originals) by nine singers --
three by Jo Lawry; two each by Kathleen Grace, Kelley Johnson, Kristin
Korb, John Proulx, Stephanie Nakasian, Hanna Richardson; one each by
Nich Anderson and Cathy Segal-Garcia -- backed minimally (most with
just one of piano, bass, or guitar; no one with more than two, and
no drums, but one accordion). Mixed bag, but many cuts are striking,
including Anderson's "Time After Time" -- he produced, but seems to
be the only one without a record out, and is the only one whose
name is missing from the cover. I guess Jazzvox is his baby, and
Darren Johnston's Gone to Chicago: The Big Lift (2010
, Porto Franco): Trumpet player from San Francisco, plays in
the Nice Guy Trio, also pops up in various avant-garde groups. This
trip to Chicago is a fruitful example, hooking Johnston up with: Jeb
Bishop (trombone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Nate McBride (bass), and
Frank Rosaly (drums). The brass attack is neatly balanced, the vibes
bright, the rhythm roiling. Mostly Johnston originals, plus one from
Ornette Coleman and the closer from Duke Ellington, a "Black and Fan
Fantasy" from an even deeper and darker jungle.
Darius Jones: Big Gurl (Smell My Dream) (2011,
AUM Fidelity): Alto saxophonist, second trio album, this one with
Adam Lane (bass) and Jason Nazary (drums), which seem to be his
forte -- much more impressive than his duo with Matthew Shipp,
let alone his Little Women group album. Intense, passionate free
sax, although he's also expressive when he slows down. Dedicates
this to George Clinton, but you won't find much on the one.
Melvin Jones: Pivot (2009, Exotic): Trumpet player,
from Atlanta, storied at Morehouse, then Mason Gross School of the
Arts (in New Jersey). First album. Glossier than hard bop, but that's
the basic setup: Mace Hibbard on alto and tenor sax, Louis Heriveaux
on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass, and Leon Anderson on drums, except
when various "guests" break in. Upbeat, boisterous, souful, a bit
on the slick side.
Tony Jones/Kenny Wollesen/Charles Burnham: Trio: Pitch,
Rhythm, and Consciousness (2011, New Artists): Only released
on LP, although I'm working off a CD-R. Jones plays tenor sax --
only time I've run across him before was on a record by his wife,
alto saxophonist Jessica Jones. Burnham plays violin, and Wollesen
drums. Free, but slow and moody, the violin receding into bass
Kidd Jordan: On Fire (2011, Engine): Avant saxophonist
from New Orleans, b. 1935, has recorded infrequently because there's
no market for avant-garde in New Orleans. With Harrison Bankhead, who
grew up under Fred Anderson's wing, on bass and cello, plus Warren
Smith on drums and vibes. Starts off squawky -- always a risk with
Jordan -- but steadies on slower fare, a superb bass solo, and
Kambar Kalendarov & Kutman Sultanbekov: Jaw
(2011, Cantaloupe Music): Spine just says "JAW"; the two names above
are in small print on the front cover, and several more musicians
are named inside -- AMG also credits Nurlanbek Nyshanov, who claims
4 compositions (vs. 3 and 2 for the others; everything else belongs
to trad.). Recorded in Kirghizstan, mostly using Kirghiz jaw harps --
Jew's harp is a corruption, and a misnomer. Each note has a lot of
overtones so you mostly get simple melodies with lots of reverb,
some resembling what you get in Tuvan throat singing. Some pieces
have other Kirghiz instruments -- woodwinds, some kind of cello.
Not much differentiation, but a distinctive exotic sound.
Benji Kaplan: Meditações No Violão (2011, Circo
Mistico): Guitarist, from New York, visited Brazil in 2003 and
got into the music. Second album, following a CDR in 2007. Solo
guitar, 4 of 14 songs having "choro" in the title. Sounds very
deeply Brazilian to me, soothing and enchanting.
Kaze: Rafale (2010 , Libra): New Satoko
Fujii-Natsuki Tamura group, a quartet with Christian Pruvost
adding a second trumpet and Peter Orins on drums. The latter
two are from France. Pruvost has one album; Orins, as far as I
can tell, none under his own name, but he wrote 3 of 6 pieces
(Fujii 2, Tamura 1). No dueling among the trumpets. In most
cases one takes a high road while the other goes low, with
much of the album winding up in the dirt. The exception is the
final cut called "Blast" where everyone is cranking.
Paul Kikuchi: Portable Sanctuary Vol. 1 (2009-10
, Present Sounds): Percussionist, based in Seattle, has several
recent records. He is rejoined here by trombonist Stuart Dempster,
whose concept of "deep listening" -- mostly long, low drones -- is
hegemonic here. With some guitar and electronics, and two extra
percussionists. Intriguing, but sometimes hard to hear what little
is going on.
Dave King Trucking Company: Good Old Light (2011,
Sunnyside): Drummer, best known in the Bad Plus piano trio, but
also in the notable Minneapolis group, Happy Apple. Second album
with his name up front, the first his Indelicate solo, this
very much a group album: Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on tenor
sax, Erik Fratzke (of Happy Apple) on electric guitar, and Adam
Linz on upright bass. Densely rhythmic and upbeat -- reminds me
a bit of Claudia Quintet (with Speed) only in a deeper groove.
Lisa Kirchner: Something to Sing About (2010
, Albany): Singer; website says songwriter (1 song plus
some lyrics here), and actress (evidently some theatre and TV,
but nothing in IMDB). Describes father as "a contemporary
classical composer, conductor and pianist" -- must be Leon
Kirchner (1919-2009) -- and mother as "a coloratura soprano
who had performed classical lieder and show tunes in New York
supper clubs." One cached broken link identifies a Lisa (Beth)
Kirchner as b. 1953 in Los Angeles, which is possibly right.
Fourth album since 2000. Don't know about the others, but
aside for her one original, the other seventeen songs here
start with music from a recent classical composer -- Charles
Ives is the oldest by far, followed by Aaron Copland, with
Wynton Marsalis the youngest (again, by far; I'd have to go
back and recheck to be sure, but William Schimmel, b. 1946,
who also plays accordion here, is probably second-youngest).
Some pieces came with lyrics, but for most of them she adds
a found text -- William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and K.D.
Lang are some sources I recognize -- or writes her own. The
band usually includes Sherman Irby (alto sax, flute), Schimmel
(accordion), Joel Fan or Xavier Davis (piano), Dwayne Burno
or Vicente Archer (bass), Ron Jackson (guitar), and Willie
Jones III (drums). Described like that, I don't see how this
can possibly work, yet it does. The songs have no whiff of
aria or lieder, the voice is on the sly side real divas never
entertain, the band evens out the rough edges, with Schimmel's
accordion nudging the songs into shape and Irby's a delight.
Søren Kjaergaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Femklang
(2011, ILK): Pianist, b. 1978 in Denmark; co-founded the label, has
a dozen or so albums since 2001. This is the third with Street (bass)
and Cyrille (drums).
Jan Klare/Jeff Platz/Meinrad Kneer/Bill Elgart: Modern
Primitive (2010 , Evil Rabbit): Klare plays alto
sax/clarinet/flute, has four albums since 2001; Platz guitar;
has a couple albums; Kneer double bass, one previous album; and
Elgart drums, also with a couple. Not quite a supergroup, but
finely balanced for jousting, the guitar throwing sax-like leads
as well as rolling with the rhythm, such as it is.
AJ Kluth's Aldric: Anvils and Broken Bells (2010
, OA2): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago. Second album.
Group is electric -- electric guitar ("many buttons & knobs"),
electric bass, with both Kluth and trumpeter James Davis credited
with effects. Fusion, I suppose, but not a throwback to the 1970s
jazz fusion stuff (though maybe Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath):
dense sheets of sound, heavy on the heavy, occasional fast breaks.
Lee Konitz: Insight (1989-95 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Front cover also has, in much smaller type, name of Frank Wunsch,
the pianist who duets with Konitz on 6 of 9 tracks. Spine only has
Konitz's name, which in the algebra of parsing album covers carries
a bit more weight. Plus the album starts off with three solo cuts,
and Wunsch doesn't make much of an impression even when he plays.
Konitz, on the other hand, does. Like most solo/duo sax records,
he stays within the speed limit, but his tone is uncommonly fine
and the improvs are rigorously intelligent. Pieced together from
five sessions scattered over six years. Includes some soprano sax
as well as the usual alto.
Itai Kriss: The Shark (2010 , Avenue K):
Flute player, b. in Israel, seems to be based in New York. First
album, although he's also done something with a Latin group called
Cachimba Inolvidable. Mostly quartet with Aaron Goldberg on piano,
Omer Avital on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums; adds John Ellis's
tenor sax for one cut, Avishai Cohen's trumpet for two, the latter
carrying the day. The flute is bright and lively in a '50s boppish
way, but it's still just a flute.
Oliver Lake & Jahi Sundance: Lakes at the Stone
(2008 , Passin Thru): Lake, b. 1942 in Arkansas, plays alto sax,
has more than 30 albums since 1971, many more credits including his
long tenure with the World Saxophone Quartet. I suspect that Jahi
Sundance is his son, hence the plural Lakes. He pops up occasionally
as a producer, and Discogs credits him with three albums. No credits
on what he does here, but he's basically a DJ, manipulating turntable,
maybe laptop samples, mostly percussion to mix with what is otherwise
solo sax, but someone works in a right-on rap on "If I Knew This,"
and another on "Where You Is, Is Where You At."
Lama: Oneiros (2011, Clean Feed): Trumpet-bass-drums
trio; respectively, Susana Santos Silva (b. 1979), Gonçalo Almeida,
and Greg Smith. Santos Silva has a record (Devil's Dress) and
a few side roles, including EMJO. Almeida wrote 6 of 8 pieces -- one
each for the others. Dense, heavy, bunched-up in the lower registers,
doesn't move much but goes where it wants.
The Landrus Kaleidoscope: Capsule (2010 ,
Blueland): Brian Landrus, b. 1978, plays baritone sax, bass clarinet,
bass flute, has a couple previous records: the first on Cadence
planted him in free jazz territory, but two on Blueland have backed
off. This one is effectively a quiet storm outing, lots of soft low
sounds with swooning guitar (Nir Felder), backed with keyb (Michael
Cain), acoustic bass (Matthew Parish), and drums (Rudy Royston).
Travis Laplante: Heart Protector (2011, Skirl):
Tenor saxophonist, one of two saxes in the free noise band Little
Women -- the other is Darius Jones, who makes better albums on
his own. First album under his own name, solo; starts with long
obscene drones, eventually working up some patterns.
B+(*) [Oct. 18]
Le Boeuf Brothers: In Praise of Shadows (2009-11
, 19/8): Twins Remy Le Boeuf (alto sax, bass clarinet, tenor
sax) and Pascal Le Boeuf (piano), lead a New York group with Mike
Ruby (tenor sax), Linda Oh (bass), Henry Cole (drums), slipping
in Nir Felder's guitar for one song, with Adria Le Boeuf doing
"ambient vocals" on another, Pascal singing one, and a string
quartet somewhere. Attempts to draw together various strands into
"a rich brand of modern jazz"; has its moments, but sometimes when
you try to be cleverly eclectic you wind up with a mish mash.
Adia Ledbetter: Take 2: Rendezvous With Yesterdays
(2010 , Jazzijua): Singer, from Durham, NC, based in New York.
Second album, mostly standards but she writes some around the edges,
and claims two songs whole. I hear a touch of Billie Holiday on
"Darn That Dream" but later on it's gone. At one point breaks into
a soliloquy on how wonderful her future is that starts with "Obama
is president, and the Steelers just won the Super Bowl" -- caught
me off guard as I was writing a long post at the time on how poorly
Obama has performed as president. She does have a bright future, or
would if the country did.
Jeff Lederer: Sunwatcher (2010 , Jazzheads):
Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, clarinet), name I recognize (looks like
mostly from Matt Wilson records, although I see a couple others in
his credits list), first album. Quartet with Jamie Saft (piano, organ),
Buster Williams (bass), and Matt Wilson (drums). Wrote 5 of 8, covering
Duke Pearson, Paul Bley, and trad. ("Break Bread Together"). Charges
hard from the box and bowls you over in that mode, hard to resist.
Less so the softer horns and slower stuff, but the band is so good
they keep him together even there.
Mike LeDonne: Keep the Faith (2011, Savant): Organ
player, one of the better ones around, leading an all-star group --
Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Joe Farnsworth
(drums) -- all with a lot of practice doing this sort of thing. Very
hot, of course, but they've managed to burn the essence out of what
used to be called soul jazz. When people would talk about, oh, Jack
McDuff or Charles Earland or Groove Holmes "burnin'" what they meant
was more like smoldering than flames jumping this way and that.
Helge Lien Trio: Natsukashii (2010 , Ozella):
Pianist, from Norway; fourteen albums since 2000, including some as
Tri O Trang (a piano-sax-tuba trio) and HERO (piano-sax duo), but
mostly trio records with this same group since 2001: Frode Berg on
bass, Knut Aalefjaer on drums. My copy has a sticker with a quote
from Jazzwise: "Lien creates music of unexpected depth and
slow burn intensity." That is precisely correct -- I would add
something about the rumbling of the undercarriage, and point out
that he's closer to Jarrett than to most of ECM's northern tier
Lim: Lim With Marc Ducret (2010 , Kopasetic):
AMG files this under a French "hardcore rapper" who likes his upper
case ("LIM") and has titles like Triples Violences Urbaines,
Le Maxi Délinquant, and Voyoucratie -- an SFFR, I'd
say, but a miss here. This group is a Swedish sax trio preferring
lower case ("lim"), led by Henrik Frisk (various saxes, writes all
the songs), with David Carlsson (electric bass) and Peter Nilsson
(drums). The three play an admirable brand of free jazz where the
rhythm section keeps everything interesting. Ducret is a French
guitarist who's played most notably with Tim Berne, which is to
say he's right at home here, always quick to zag when the sax zigs.
Lisa Lindsley: Everytime We Say Godbye (2010 ,
self-released): Standards singer, b. in Ogden, UT; shares birthday
with Sarah Vaughan but doesn't disclose the year -- far enough back
to have raised and home schooled three daughters. Based in Bay Area.
First album. Also has an acting resume, but nothing I recognize.
Backed here by piano (George Mesterhazy) and bass (Fred Randolf).
The lack of drums signals a desire to take these songs slow and
easy, which may (or may not) be your idea of sultry. Didn't make
much of an impression on me until she changed the pace with a
bright and chipper "It's Only a Paper Moon." After that the slow
treatment on "Why Don't You Do Right" did take on a smoky air, but
"The Girl From Ipanema" felt belabored.
Steve Lipman: There's a Song in My Heart (2010-11
, Locomotion): Sinatra without the voice -- what, the hat
isn't enough? Good thing he kept his day job: a dental practice
in Windsor, CT. On the other hand, his band -- no one I've heard
of, although the type is so illegible it's hard to make out any
names -- swings gracefully, and his overbite has a certain comic
charm. When Google offered a squiggle on "a comic career" I
entertained the possibility of a put-on, but turns out there's
another Steve Lipman, who got his start during the ancien regime,
offering: "I'm 11 years old, and I've learned to tie my shoes
really well. So if President Bush ever comes to town, I'll teach
Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens
Concert (2010 , ECM, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938,
built both a popular and critical rep in the late 1960s with a group
that introduced Keith Jarrett. Nothing in my database for him from
1969-89 when ECM picked him up -- AMG lists 9 records 1970-83, two
with four stars, most with two, and has an empty gap from 1983-89.
Since joining ECM he's been on a roll, especially lately with this
quartet: Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), Eric Harland
(drums). Farantouri is a Greek vocalist, b. 1947, has 30 or more
albums, and a political record that sent her into exile during the
military coup years -- I've seen reference to her as the "Joan Baez
of Greece" but caution against taking that seriously. Live concert,
spread over two discs. Took me a while to acclimate to her voice,
which is deep and striking (the Greek Abbey Lincoln?). A couple
instrumentals let the band shine on the first disc, but by the
second it all meshes.
Luis Lopes: Lisbon Berlin Trio (2011, Clean Feed):
Guitarist, from Portugal, has a couple records under his own name,
more as Afterfall and Humanization 4tet, and he's shown up on the
side of other very solid records. Everything he does is worthwhile,
but he's mostly complemented saxophonists (like Rodrigo Amado) --
his 2009 trio What Is When seemed like a bit less, but this
trio with Robert Landferman on bass and Christian Lilinger on drums
settles it. His use of feedback gives this an extra charge. Also,
Lilinger does exactly what you want in a free drummer.
Harold Lopez Nussa Trio: El País de las Maravillas
(2010 , World Village): Full name: Harold López-Nussa Torres.
Born and based in Havana, Cuba, although this, his fourth album
since 2007, was recorded in France. Mostly piano trio, plus sax
(David Sanchez) on 4 of 11 tracks. Definitely has that Cuban kick
to the piano.
Mark Alban Lotz & Istak Köpek: Istanbul Improv Sessions
May 4th (2010 , Evil Rabbit): Flute player, b. 1963,
Dutch but grew up in Thailand and Uganda. AMG credits him with six
albums since 1994 -- certainly an undercount, although I'm at a loss
as how to sort the 35 albums he lists on his website (I'd certainly
credit him with the six albums by Lotz of Music, but his role in
Cachao Sounds: La Descarga Continua is likely minor). Here
he plays with Turkish group Islak Köpek (two tenor saxes, guitar,
cello, and laptop; three names look Turkish and two Anglo). Lotz
ranges from piccolo to bass flute, and the latter gets a lot of
use here. Considerable sonic interest here, especially when they
get loud and dense, which is their preferred mode -- although
improv being improvised they sometimes swing and miss.
Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11
, Music & Arts, 3CD): Probably better known for his books
and compilations -- the 9-CD American Pop: An Audio History From
Minstrel to Mojo and the 36-CD That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz
History plus their separately published books, with a new 36-CD
blues series in the works -- than for his original music. I first
discovered him when Francis Davis tabbed his first two self-released
1990-92 albums as Pick Hits in an earlier edition of Jazz Consumer
Guide -- critical admiration that continues as Davis wrote liner
notes for this release. Based in Maine, mostly cut with a local
group occasionally spiced with outside star power -- Marc Ribot,
Matthew Shipp, Roswell Rudd, Lewis Porter -- this digs deeper than
I could have imagined into blues form, blues notes, and blues psyche,
turning every aspect over and inside out. Lowe plays alto, C melody,
and tenor sax, and guitar. While most of the guitar is played by
Ray Suhy or Marc Ribot, Lowe especially stands out on "Williamsburg
Blues" -- his guitar with Shipp's piano. Three discs means some
sprawl, comparable I'd say to 69 Love Songs in that neither
the theme nor the invention ever wears thin. (Well, maybe a bit in
the middle disc.)
Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (2009-11
, Music & Arts):
[was: A-] A
Duda Lucena Quartet: Live (2011, Borboleta):
Guitarist-singer-songwriter from Recife, Brazil; based in Charleston,
SC, of all places. Wrote most of his previous album, but only one
song here ("Sol" -- title song of said album), opting instead for
the standards: Jobim, Djavan, Donato, Veloso, Gil. Quartet includes
piano, bass, drums -- no one I recognize, but for all I know they
could be big names in Charleston. Loose, informal, leader certainly
knows his stuff.
Vincent Lyn: Heaven Bound (2011, Budo): Pianist,
first album, describes it as "cool jazz with a mix of classical
and bossa nova." Has a longer career as an actor and stunt man,
especially in Hong Kong martial arts films -- website has a lot
of pics of him handling swords. Group includes guitar, sax/flute,
bass, drums, percussion, and Fernanda Capela singing the bossa
nova-oriented pieces, while the classical bits (Rachmaninoff,
Satie, Piero Domenico Paradisi) center on the piano. It's all
rather genteel, not especially interesting as jazz but pleasant
in a nicely rounded way.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (2008 , ACT):
Alto saxophonist, grew up in US, picked up his Indian roots on the
rebound, as is so often the case. Cites Charlie Parker as influence,
of course, but also Grover Washington, David Sanborn, the Brecker
Brothers, and the Yellowjackets -- guess you had to be there, but he
does try to fold his more complex ideas back into neatly accessible
packages. Also credited with laptop here. Band includes electric
guitar, electric bass, and drums, giving him a slicked back fusion
sound, but also "Anand" Anantha Krishnan on mridangam and kanjira,
reminding you how he's different.
Tony Malaby: Tony Malaby's Novella (2011, Clean Feed):
Tenor saxophonist, credited first with soprano here. Has a dozen albums
since 1993, but I mostly run into him on side credits where he always
helps out and often steals the show. One such venue is pianist Kris
Davis's Quartet. Davis returns the favor here, not just playing but
arranging six pieces from previous Malaby albums for a nonet: four
reeds, three brass, her piano, and John Hollenbeck's drums -- no bass
but Dan Peck's tuba, Ben Gerstein's trombone, Andrew Badro's bari sax,
and Joachim Badenhorst's bass clarinet offer plenty of bottom support.
The front-line horns are Ralph Alessi's trumpet, Michael Attias's alto
sax, and Malaby's soprano/tenor, but they rarely stand out. I haven't
managed to take it all in yet, but it sure is heavy.
Mambo Legends Orchestra: ¡Ten Cuidao! Watch Out!
(2011, Zoho, 2CD): Mostly long-time veterans of Tito Puente's big
band -- John Rodriguez, Jose Madera, Mitch Frohman, Frankie Vazquez,
Cita Rodriguez, Marco Bermudez are singled out on the back cover.
Lots of punch in the horns, rhythm up the wazoo, Vazquez's vocals.
It's a bit much by the end, but quite a thrill along the way.
Bob Mamet Trio: Impromptu (2010, Counterpoint):
Pianist, cut three albums 1994-97 which gave him something of a rep
for crossover or pop jazz (AMG: "pop-jazz with a brain"). This is
his first album since, a straight acoustic piano trio with Darek
Oles[kiewicz] on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums, all original
pieces. Bright, lively, accessible without falling into any of the
usual pop jazz ruts.
René Marie: Black Lace Fredian Slip (2011, Motéma
Music): Singer, b. 1955, cut her first album in 2000 after raising
a couple of kids. I belatedly checked out her second, the Penguin
Guide crown-winning Vertigo, just before this one, with its
striking standards interpretations, guest horns, swing and scat.
None of that is particulary evident here, where she wrote 10 (of
13) songs, works with a rhythm section I've never heard of, has
unknowns guest on two songs (harmonica and guitar). Still, even
without the scat she's are remarkable singer. Too early to tell
about the songs (e.g., "Rim Shot"), but the title is a salacious
opener, and "Tired" is a blues that buttons the record down tight.
Denman Maroney: Double Zero (2008 , Porter):
Plays hyperpiano, his term for a piano that is played not just from
the keyboard but by using various implements to strike, bow, or
otherwise agitate the strings. The effect is to add elements of
bass (or higher-pitched string instruments) and percussion, some
in combination with the conventional piano sounds, some instead of.
Solo hyperpiano here, one titled piece in nine parts; runs on and
doesn't sustain interest although it has its moments, especially
when the inner and outer approaches work in tandem.
Jessie Marquez: All I See Is Sky (2011, Carena):
Singer, from Eugene, OR (as near as I can figure out). Father grew
up in Cuba; she visited Cuba in 1996 and wound up recording her
first album there. This is her third, counting one with guitarist
Mike Denny's name also on the cover. She has co-credits on 7 of 13
songs; sings and writes a more in Spanish than in English, also
taking the Jobim closer in Spanish. Rafael Trujillo's percussion
keeps the vibe going, and John Nastos adds some tasty sax, then
gets the right effect switching to flute on the Jobim.
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live
From Jazz at Lincoln Center (2011, Reprise, CD+DVD): The
guitarist picked the tunes, anticipating that this would turn out
to be a jazz album based on blues rather than a blues album with
some extra horns. I suspect his early exposure was to British trad
stalwarts -- Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Humphrey Lyttelton and their
kin -- although he's enough of an Americaphile that he must know
when he's treading on Louis Armstrong, and maybe even George Lewis.
Marsalis arranged the pieces and went for a King Oliver front line --
two trumpets (Marcus Printup), trombone (Chris Crenshaw), clarinet
(Victor Goines) -- forgoing the tuba for Carlos Henriquez's bass,
adding Don Vappie's banjo, Dan Nimmer on piano, and Ali Jackson on
drums and washboard. Clapton, in turn, brought along his old keyb
player, Chris Stainton. Clapton has often been nicked for his lack
of blues voice, but he's plenty strong here -- while managing to
duck the last three songs, one going to Crenshaw, the last two to
guest Taj Mahal. Can't claim that the DVD is worth the extra $6-9
it will cost you: it's a straight concert film, a bit more patter
and some shots of rehearsing, all of which helps.
Will Martina: The Dam Levels (2011, self-released):
Cellist, born and raised in Canberra, Australia; based in New York.
Has a few side credits, including with Burnt Sugar. First album,
trio with Jason Lindner on piano and Richie Barshay on drums --
both adding significantly which keeps this very balanced.
Pat Martino: Undeniable: Live at Blues Alley (2009
, High Note): Guitarist, b. Pat Azzara in Philadelphia 1944;
cut mostly soul jazz albums 1966-76; suffered a brain aneurysm which
caused amnesia, but was able to cut an album again in 1987 and has
worked steadily since 1994. I've rarely been impressed by his return --
great story, of course, wish him well and all -- but this one seems
to be his calling: an organ quartet, with Tony Monaco on the Hammond,
Eric Alexander on tenor sax, and Jeff Watts on drums. Monaco could
be a little less soupy, and Alexander could be more boisterous, but
the guitarist is always at the top of his game.
Nicolas Masson: Departures (2010 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): A prodigious, important label; unfortunately, I've only
gotten their work via artist publicists for the last couple years.
Masson is from Switzerland, b. 1972, plays tenor sax here, and bass
clarinet elsewhere. Fourth album since 2001, a quartet with Ben
Monder (guitar), Patrice Moret (bass), and Ted Poor (drums). Postbop,
sophisticated and slippery, as is Masson's tenor tone, the steel
framework provided more by Monder's guitar.
Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur: Mojave (2011,
Motéma): Brazilian bassist and Israeli guitarist, both New York
based, both with such substantial discographies I won't bother
looking them up. In smaller front cover print: Victor Lewis
(drums) and Café (percussion) -- don't know the latter but he's
invaluable here. Mostly a Brazilian program (Jobim, Pixinginha,
Baden Powell) with two pieces by Ben-Hur, two by Matta, one by
Lewis, one by Burt Bacharach. Nice to focus on Matta's bass for
once, the guitar adding tasteful highlights and a little icing.
Marilyn Mazur: Celestial Circle (2010 , ECM):
Percussionist, born in US, raised in Denmark, assembled this group as
artist-in-residence at Norway's Molde Jazz Festival in 2008: Josefine
Cronholm (voice), John Taylor (piano), Anders Jormin (double bass).
Mazur's percussion is delicate and tends to get lost, although the
vocals and everything else compete to be unobtrusive.
Christian McBride Big Band: The Good Feeling (2011,
Mack Avenue): One of the unwritten rules of jazz these days seems
to be that everyone wants to (and gets to) lead a big band sooner
or later. McBride's reportedly been working on his charts for years,
but his ideas are pretty stock: conventional five reeds (plus Loren
Schoenberg on two cuts), four trumpets, four trombones, piano, bass,
and drums (no guitar), with singer Melissa Walker featured on a
few cuts. Fine band, a mix of name soloists and guys who show up
in everyone's big band.
Christian McBride: Conversations With Christian
(2011, Mack Avenue): Thirteen songs, each a duet between the bassist
and someone else: four singers (Angelique Kidjo, Sting, Dee Dee
Bridgewater, and Gina Gershon), five pianists (Eddie Palmieri, Dr.
Billy Taylor, Hank Jones, George Duke, Chick Corea), Regina Carter
(violin), Russel Malone (guitar), and Ron Blake (tenor sax). No
dates, but Jones and Taylor died in 2010. It's hard to get any sort
of consistency or momentum out of this sort of thing, especially
when the constant is the bass, but the vocalists are spread out,
the piano-bass connecting tissue rather than filler. Also helps
that McBride talks along on two vocal cuts, drawing Gershon out
and keeping Bridgewater from falling over the top.
Bill McHenry: Ghosts of the Sun (2006 ,
Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, leading a quartet with Ben Monder
(guitar), Reid Anderson (bass), and Paul Motian (drums). Postbop,
a bit off center, probably because that's all the foundation the
Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans
Song) (2009 , NoBusiness): Another case where one's
reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was to keep doing what one does
anyway, although one could credit the tragedy with moderating McPhee,
keeping his tone in check, somber and studied. He is brilliant both
on alto sax and pocket trumpet. Zerang drums along, accenting and
encouraging, doing all he needs to do.
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: MSMW Live: In Case the
World Changes Its Mind (2011, Indirecto, 2CD): I don't see
much evidence of minds changing, here or elsewhere. John Medeski,
Chris Wood, and Billy Martin were probably more responsible than
any other group for the resurgence of groove-heavy funk in the 1990s.
True, if you listen to Martin's percussion discs and follow Medeski's
side projects you'll run into some more adventurous music, but they
always seem to return to form together. Guitarist John Scofield is
a natural fit: he gives them an elegant lead instrument, and they
rival his best organ groups from the 1980s. Plus, going live means
you get to recycle.
Brad Mehldau/Kevin Hays: Modern Music (2011,
Nonesuch): Piano duo, actually just the front men appearing above
the title for Patrick Zimmerli, below the title and "composed and
arranged by" but in larger type. Zimmerli is a saxophonist, b.
1968, has five albums from 1998 (six if you count this one). He
been working the boundaries between jazz and classical, and has
a number of compositions commissioned for classical groups. Here
he wrote 4 of 9 pieces, arranged an original each by Mehldau and
Hays, plus ones by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Ornette Coleman.
Susie Meissner: I'm Confessin' (2010 , Lydian
Jazz): Standards singer, grew up in Buffalo, grandmother played stride
piano which led her to Ellington, Gershwin, Porter (all represented
here, Duke twice). Second album. Nice voice, great songs, band swings,
trombonist Wycliffe Gordon earns his special guest status on his four
Francisco Mela & Cuban Safari: Tree of Life (2010
, Half Note): Drummer, b. 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba. Third album since
2005. The first two were very impressive, but I've played this four
times now and already lost my thread of thought. Could do without the
vocals (Esperanza Spalding), for one thing.
Pat Metheny: What's It All About (2011, Nonesuch):
Solo guitar, covering songs mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, probably
things that strike a nostalgic note to a kid from Missouri born in
1954, but as one born in 1950 in Kansas I have to say that several
are songs I'd just as soon never hear again. He does do some
interesting things with them -- only "Cherish" resists the treatment.
Metta Quintet: Big Drum/Small World (2011, Jazzreach):
A project of Jazzreach, a 501(c)(3) non-profit "dedicated to the promotion,
performance, creation and teaching of jazz music." Third album I'm aware
of under this name: bassist Joshua Ginsburg and drummer Hans Schuman are
the constants, with piano and horns rotating -- currently, Marcus Strickland
(tenor and soprano sax), Greg Ward (alto sax), and David Bryant (piano).
They play five pieces: one by Strickland, the others by name players not
in the band -- Omer Avital, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Yosvany Terry, and Miguel
Zenón. First-rate postbop, well within the lines but I suppose you have to
be when trying to be educational.
Miles Español (2011, Entertainment One, 2CD):
Only got an advance so I'm not sure how this is packaged. I filed
it under Bob Belden ("conceived and produced by"), in large part
because it seems like his kind of thing, although his only other
credit is percussion/marimba on one track. I cribbed the credit
list (36 musicians) from the hype sheet, which misspelled names,
often omitted instruments, and was inconsistent between specifying
percussion instruments and grouping them together. Most players
only show up for 1-3 tracks (out of 16), with percussionist Alex
Acuña way out front (10 tracks), followed by Sammy Figueroa (6).
This remakes 4 of 5 titles from Sketches of Spain (omits
"Will o' the Wisp," and smashes "Saeta" and "Pan Piper" into one
track); adds two loosely related Miles Davis pieces ("Flamenco
Sketches," "Teo/Neo"); and picks up extra pieces, mostly from
its guest stars (Rabih Abou-Khalil, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette,
Niño Joseles, Jorge Pardo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Scofield).
Four of the pieces go orchestral (flutes and bassoon and such,
Abou-Khalil's oud and Edmar Castañeda's harp the only strings);
the others stick with small groups, leaning a bit too much on
piano, but otherwise the whole thing hangs together and flows.
A step toward "jazz repertory," if that interests you.
Nicole Mitchell: Awakening (2011, Delmark): Flute
player, b. 1967 in Syracuse, NY; grew up in California; moved to
Chicago in 1990 and got involved in AACM, becoming co-president in
2006. Tenth album since 2001. Has won Rising Star Flute in the
Downbeat critics poll several times, and won outright this
year, something she'll probably do regularly over the next decade.
Most famous flute players are saxophonists slumming -- Frank Wess
and James Moody have dominated this category, but Moody died and
Wess is nearly 90. Young flautists mostly come up with a rigorous
classical background, but Mitchell has her own sound and dynamics,
probably drawing on Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. Still,
flute doesn't do much for me, so while she glides over the rhythm
I'm more impressed by the band: Jeff Parker on guitar, Harrison
Bankhead on bass, and Avreeayl Ra on drums.
Yoko Miwa Trio: Live at Scullers Jazz Club (2010
, self-released): Pianist, b. 1970 in Kobe, Japan; moved to
US in 1996 with a Berklee scholarship. Fourth album since 2001, a
trio with Greg Loughman on bass and Scott Goulding on drums. Three
originals, five covers starting with "This Could Be the Start of
Something" and including Lou Reed's "Who Loves the Sun." Most
convincing at high speed -- dazzling might be the word.
Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon (2011, Thirsty Ear):
Trumpet player, from Norway, started out in Masqualero with Arild
Andersen, emerged under his own name on a couple albums on ECM with
drum machines: the first flush of what came to be called jazztronica,
which led to a merger with Matthew Shipp's jazz-DJ synthesis label.
Erland Dahlen handles the percussion this time, favoring log drums
and steel drums over electronics, with Stian Westerhus plugging his
guitars, keybs, pedals, and toys in -- all fitting background for
Molvaer's trumpet, but it mostly leans atmospheric. Exception is
"Recoil," which cranks up the volume for a rush of intensity.
Silvano Monasterios: Unconditional (2010 ,
Savant): Pianist, from Caracas, Venezuela; moved to Miami in 1990,
where he cut this. Has at least two previous albums. Upbeat, lush --
especially with Troy Roberts' sax running wild -- with more than a
little Latin tinge.
Martin Moretto: Quintet (2009 , self-released):
Argentine guitarist, based in New York. First album, a quintet with
Bill McHenry (tenor sax), Phil Markowitz (piano), Santi Debriano (bass),
and Vanderlei Pereira (drums). The guitar is elegant and seductive.
Not sure what it means that I can't recall the sax.
Carol Morgan Quartet: Blue Glass Music (2011, Blue
Bamboo Music): Blue-tinted cover photo too. Trumpet player, from
Texas, studied at Juilliard, teaches in New York. Fourth album:
quartet with Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Martin Wind (bass), and Matt
Wilson (drums). Five covers ranging from Cole Porter to Ornette
Coleman, plus a song each from Frahm and Wind. Straight-ahead
postbop, nice mix from the horns, strong leads, loses a bit when
the tempos slow.
Paul Motian: The Windmills of Your Mind (2010 ,
Winter & Winter): Aside from the intro and its reprise at the end,
a very low key standards album, sung in not much more than a whisper
by Petra Haden, with guitarist Bill Frisell slipping in fine touches,
Thomas Morgan steady on bass, and the leader doing whatever it is he's
been doing for fifty-some years now.
Motif: Art Transplant (2011, Clean Feed): Quintet,
with Norwegian bassist Ole Morten Vågan (b. 1979) the principal and
presumed leader -- the other candidate is the trumpet player noted
on the front cover in small print as "(with Axel Dörner)," who wrote
one piece. The others are Atle Nymo (tenor sax, bass clarinet),
Håvard Wiik (piano, plays in Free Fall with Ken Vandermark), and
Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums). Hard bop lineup, but veers off in
various directions: a little industrial noise, some flush piano
stretches, horns going off in various directions.
Mark Moultrup: Relaxin' . . . on the Edge (2003-10
, Mark Moultrup Music): Keyboardist, vocalist, composer, arranger,
originally from Detroit, now Chicago-based. Fifth album since 2001,
all but one 2010 cut recorded in 2003. Cover photos from Yosemite.
First cut is instrumental, dominated by Chris Collins' edgy postbop
sax, not what I was expecting. Second cut took off with post-disco
fusion keybs and choral vocals. Third shifted to melodramatic piano
measured against the bass. Fifth song offers an ordinary hipster
vocal complaining about the overcomplication of ordering coffee.
Then back to more overorchestrated schmaltz. I suppose it says
something that he manages most of the mess with his own keyboards.
It's rare that one person finds so many distinct ways to make an
Alphonse Mouzon: Angel Face (2011, Tenacious):
Drummer, b. 1948 in Charleston, SC; emerged as fusion was picking
up steam, playing with Weather Report early on, Larry Coryell's
Eleventh House, cutting his own albums for Blue Note in the early
1970s. As things cooled down, launched his own label, Tenacious
Records, in 1981, and has at least 14 records since. Never paid
much attention to him, so the most striking thing here is the
surfeit of riches. He's basically running a quintet here, but at
piano he alternates between Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron; at
bass Christian McBride and Darek Oleskiewicz; his main trumpet
players are Arturo Sandoval and Wallace Roney (Shonzo Ohno gets
one cut); the tenor sax slot is shared by Ernie Watts, Don Menza,
and Bob Mintzer, with Antoine Roney and Charles Owens getting one
cut each. These are guys who can break out and do something
interesting, and sometimes they do, but mostly they burnish the
leader's painless, pleasant funk groove.
Leszek Mozdzer: Komeda (2011, ACT): Pianist, b. 1970
in Poland, classically trained and as likely to turn in Impressions
on Chopin as this set of solo piano meditations on the patron saint
of Polish jazz, Krzyzstof Komeda. Solo piano never does much for me
unless it has a big rhythmic kick; this doesn't, but otherwise it's
hard to fault. Need to play it again, maybe in the context of other
Komeda tributes (which seem to be far easier to score than the old
Mozik (2010 , self-released): Boston group,
led by Brazilians Gilson Schachnik (keyboards) and Mauricio Zottarelli
(drums), with flute (Yulia Musayelan), guitar (Gustavo Assis-Brasil),
and bass (Fernando Huergo). Zottarelli insists he didn't like Brazilian
music until he moved to Boston. I detect an air of respectful reunion,
winning out over a mischievous desire to mix things up. Three Jobims,
one each from Monk and Hancock, two originals (by Schachnik), one more
("Canto das Tres Raças").
David Murray Cuban Ensemble: Plays Nat King Cole en
Español (2010 , Motéma): More inspired by than based
on Cole's 1958-62 Spanish-language records, En Español and
More En Español. Cole took backing tracks from a small Cuban
group and dubbed in his sweet vocals -- one story is that the 1958
revolution prevented him from finishing the album in Havana. Murray
is at least equally circuitous, recording his Cuban band in Buenos
Aires with tango singer Daniel Melingo -- as rough as Cole is smooth --
then dubbing in strings in Portugal, mixing the album in France, and
mastering it in the UK. Even with Melingo on board, the vocals are
trimmed way back, leaving more room for the sax, as imposing as
Nanette Natal: Sweet Summer Blue (2011, Benyo Music):
Singer, plays some acoustic guitar, b. 1945 in Brooklyn, eighth album
since 1971. Not much band here -- a lead guitarist, bass, drums, and
violin, but mostly they stay quiet. She tones her technique down quite
a bit too: could pass for a folksinger here, earnest and credible,
such a strong, distinctive singer she no longer needs to flaunt it.
Josh Nelson: Discoveries (2011, Steel Bird):
Pianist, from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2004. Wrote all but one
of the pieces, naming them for things like "Dirigibles" and "Tesla
Coil" -- with featured quotes inside the package from Mark Twain and
H.G. Wells, his interest in new things is curiously dated. Group is
spread out with three horns, but the most satisfying parts lead with
Richard Nelson Large Ensemble: Pursuit (2011, Heliotrope):
Guitarist, teaches at University of Maine at Augusta, has a couple
previous albums. The Large Ensemble is a 13-piece group -- 4 reeds
(including flute), 4 brass, viola, cello, guitar, bass, drums --
that does the five-part title piece. The album finishes with two
9+ minute quintet pieces. I didn't get much out of either, possibly
as much due to recording dynamics (i.e., lack of) as of the music
itself, which at least makes room for the guitar.
The New Universe Music Festival 2010 (2010 ,
Abstract Logix, 2CD): John McLaughlin's label puts on a show. In
recent years he's dropped the Mahavishnu title, returned to hard
fusion, and grayed up so elegantly that his picture on the cover,
well except for the guitar, looks like he just stepped out of a
painting of the Founding Father. He gets the last set here, along
with Zakir Hussain on tabla, stealing some of his thunder. The
other groups are nearly all guitar-keyb-bass-drum outfits, with
one violin, and percussionist Arto Tunçboyaciyan slipped in. The
guitarist all take their cues from McLaughlin, the others rarely
straying from early 1970s fusion icons. The "new universe" sounds
much like an old and mostly disparaged one, but they're so set on
making it work you have to give them some credit. I haven't seen
this much purism since the Dixieland revival of the 1950s.
New York Standards Quartet: Unstandard (2010 ,
Challenge): David Berkman (piano), Tim Armacost (tenor sax, etc.,
alto flute), Gene Jackson (drums), Yosuke Inoue (bass), listed in
that order. Berkman has five albums since 1998 -- the first two an
impressive debut, the others dribbling out slowly. Armacost has a
similar pattern, five albums since his 1996 debut on Concord -- I
haven't heard those. I hadn't noticed Inoue, from Japan, but he's
been in New York for 13 years, with six albums. Jackson pops up
all the time. Group has a previous Live in Tokyo (2008).
I saw Benny Carter once and he introduced "How High the Moon" as
"the jazz musician's national anthem," so it's especially poignant
as the lead standard here. Other standards come from Benny Golson,
Jimmy Van Heusen ("But Beautiful"), Bill Evans, and Warren-Dubin
("Summer Night"), but about half of the pieces are originals by
the band -- I guess, the only thing jazz musicians like more than
standards is rolling their own.
The Nice Guy Trio: Sidewalks and Alleys/Walking Music
(2010 , Porto Franco): Darren Johnston (trumpet), Rob Reich
(accordion), Daniel Fabricant (bass). Second group album, with Reich
composing the first five-part title suite and Johnston the latter,
also in five parts. The accordion gives them an old world feel, part
chamber music but earthier. I liked their first record quite a bit,
but have trouble here with the added weight of string trio -- tends
to overwhelm the former piece, fitting more discreetly into the latter.
NY Jazz Initiative: Mad About Thad (2010 ,
Jazzheads): Well, aren't we all? Thad, of course, is Thad Jones,
elder brother to Hank and Elvin (all three are in Downbeat's
Hall of Fame), trumpeter, composer. NY Jazz Initiative is mostly
an octet (two pianists alternate; an extra trombone shows up on
the first cut), with soprano/tenor saxophonist Rob Derke listed
first and given credit for arranging 4 of 8 pieces -- the other
pieces were arranged by non-members. The three saxes (Derke, Ralph
Lalama, Steve Wilson), trumpet (David Smith), and trombone (Sam
Burtis, who also plays some tuba) light this up.
Nordeson Shelton: Incline (2011, Singlespeed Music):
Alto sax-drums duo -- drums by Kjell Nordeson, sax by Aram Shelton.
Shelton passed through Chicago on his way to his current base in
Oakland, which sharpened his instincts for developing a distinct
tone and style, but that's never been more clear than in this basic
context. Nordeson's credits include Mats Gustafsson (AALY Trio) and
Paul Rutherford, Atomic and Exploding Customer.
Sean Nowell: Stockholm Swingin' (2010 ,
Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973, third album, cut live at
the Glenn Miller Café in Stockholm with what appears to be a local
crew: Fredrik Olsson (guitar), Leo Lindberg (piano), Lars Ekman
(bass), and Joe Abba (drums), with three tunes credited to the
band members, one to Nowell, one Swedish trad, plus Ellington,
Strayhorn, and Tyner. Nowell is a mainstream guy who flexes a lot
of muscle, turning this into a high speed, high volume romp.
Oz Noy: Twisted Blues Volume 1 (2010 , Abstract
Logix): Guitarist, originally from Israel, now based in New York,
fifth album since 2005. Fusion guy, likes his lines long and loud,
knows a few blues licks, but still needs to work on that twisty
Bill O'Connell: Triple Play Plus Three (2010 ,
Zoho): Pianist, b. 1953, studied at Oberlin; has eight or so records,
with an early one in 1978, another in 1993, the rest since 2001 as
he moved more into Latin jazz. I was tempted to attribute this to
Bill O'Connell Plus Three, but changed my mind after checking and
finding another Triple Play album. The core group is O'Connell
and Richie Flores (congas). The "plus three" are Paquito D'Rivera
(clarinet), Dave Samuels (vibes), and Dave Valentin (flute), who
take turns filling out a trio. The rotation avoids any ruts, but
I rather prefer the guestless stretches where O'Connell pushes
harder and breaks up his flow.
Ocote Soul Sounds: Taurus (2011, ESL Music):
Brooklyn Latin funk group, led by Martin Perna (flutes, saxes,
shekere, quijada, tambourine, melodica, vocals, guitar, bass),
a spinoff from Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. Fourth album. Adrian
Quesada (guitar, bass, electric piano, organ, background vocals)
was on the masthead the last two albums; he continues here, but
has receded typographically but remains co-leader. Grooveful,
Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40
Acres and a Burro (2010 , Zoho): Pianist, took over
his father's big band (Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra) in 1995. AMG
credits him with seven albums since 1999, missing two ALJO discs,
and I'm not sure what else. This combines O'Farrill's quintet,
the ALJO big band, and a raft of guests -- Paquito D'Rivera,
David Bixler, and Heather Martin Bixler get pics on the back
cover. Three O'Farrill originals, including "A Wise Latina" and
the title track. Grossly cluttered, except for rare moments when
the rhythm breaks through, as in the pieces by Pixinguinha and
Astor Piazzolla -- the latter even puts the horns to good use.
Nils Økland/Sigbjørn Apeland: Lysøen: Hommage à Ole Bull
(2009-10 , ECM): Violinist, b. 1961 in Norway; 4th album since
2004. Apeland plays piano and harmonium in duets, or quite often you
only hear one or the other. Ole Bull was a Norwegian violinist and
composer from 1810-1880. The music draws on Bull, trad., Edvard Grieg
(one piece), and adds four new pieces (one each, two together). Not
much momentum, but immediate and arresting.
Olavi Trio & Friends: Triologia (2008 ,
TUM): No idea how common a name Olavi is in Finland, but drummer Olavi
Luohivouri rounded up two more for this project: Teppo Olavi Hauta-aho
(bass), and Jari Olavi Hongisto (trombone). All, in the great Sun Ra
tradition, also play percussion, with bird whistles, wood blocks,
musical boxes, and toy instruments prominently featured. The "friends"
show up on two tracks each: Verneri Pohjola (trumpet, also played with
Louhivouri in Ilmilekki Quartet), Juhani Aaltonen (tenor sax, has been
active since 1970 and should be a household name by now), and Kalle
Kalima (electric guitar, had a recent album on TUM). Combination tends
toward the murky side, although every now and then you'll hear something
Harold O'Neal: Marvelous Fantasy (2011, Smalls):
Pianist, second album, had a fine mainstream trio last time, shoots
for a solo this time. Wrote all the pieces. Trends soft and melodic,
probably his idea of marvelous, maybe even of fantasy.
Oregon: In Stride (2010, CAM Jazz): Quartet,
founded in 1970 as some sort of world-jazz fusion band. The most
distinctive member, at least up to his death in 1984, was Collin
Walcott, who played sitar, percussion, all sorts of things. The
other three remain to this day: Paul McCandless (oboe, English horn,
various saxes and clarinets), Ralph Towner (guitar), and Glen Moore
(bass). The group disbanded after Walcott's death; the other three
regrouping in 1987 with Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and now
carry on with drummer Mark Walker. This is their 28th album. I've
only heard a few at both ends of their career. Horns trend toward
the ethereal, guitar toward the sublime, pulse and beat move along,
with nothing especially standing out.
The Oscuro Quintet: Music for Tango Ensemble (2010
, Big Round): Based in Philadelphia: Alban Bailly (guitar),
June Bender (violin), Benjamin Blazer (bass), Shinjoo Cho (accordion,
bandoneon), and Thomas Lee (piano). Bailly composed the five-part
"Five Procrastinations"; the rest draws on Argentine masters. AMG
(and others) tend to file this as classical, probably for the same
things that turn me off. Still has its charms -- "oddly OK" was the
judgment from the other room.
Christian Pabst Trio: Days of Infinity (2010
, Challenge): Pianist, b. 1984 in Germany, moved to
Netherlands in 2006, studying at Conservatory of Amsterdam.
First album. Six (of ten) cuts are piano trio with David Andres
on bass and Andreas Klein on drums. The other four add trumpet
player Gerard Prescencer. The piano is vibrant, mostly upbeat.
The trumpet and flugelhorn offer a nice change of pace.
Gretchen Parlato: The Lost and Found (2010 ,
ObliqSound): Singer, b. 1976, third album since 2005, writes most of
her own material. Has a slight whisper to her voice which is generally
appealing but isn't enough to carry a song a cappella (as she attempts
in "Alô, Alô"), so a good band should help. She has Taylor Eigsti
(piano), Derrick Hodge (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums), and sometimes
Dayne Stephens (tenor sax), all toned down to fit her demure style.
One cut that works: "All That I Can Say."
Beata Pater: Blue (2011, B&B): Singer, born and
grew up in Poland, moved to US 15-plus years ago. Fifth album since
1993. Most of the pieces are originals by her and/or piano-organ player
Mark Little -- the opener is "Afro Blue" (Mongo Santamaria), closer
"Blue in Green" (Miles Davis), with two more pieces by Krzysztof Komeda
in the middle. Voice has a thin, unreal quality, indulging in a lot
of scat. Gets a bit better toward the end when the beat picks up.
Nicholas Payton: Bitches (2011, In + Out): Trumpet
player from New Orleans, solidly grounded in the tradition, which
got him a gig with Kansas City, a Louis Armstrong tribute,
and a super record with Doc Cheatham, but his more modern moves
haven't worked out as well -- some jazztronica, here a move into
vocal-heavy 1970s-retro r&b. Like Stevie Wonder, he plays all
of the instruments, leaning heavily on the keybs, although only
his trumpet remains distinctive. His croon ranges from competent
to annoying, occasionally supplemented by guest females -- not
clear if they are the intended subject of the title, or some
other form of malapropism.
Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You: New Lyrics to Benny Carter
Classics (2011, Evening Star): Singer, writes plays, studied
at Barnard then moved to Los Angeles, where Benny and Hilma Carter
"became like surrogate parents." Carter wrote "Souvenir of You" as
a tribute to Johnny Hodges on his passing, so Pearl added a lyric as
a tribute to Carter. Two cuts here sample Carter's 1992 big band
record Harlem Renaissance so she gets to sing along with her
late mentor -- Carter died in 2003 at 95; Hilma, who dated Carter
in the '30s but didn't marry him until sometime in the '70s, is
still alive (as far as I can tell, probably in her 80s). Pearl's
first album. Aside from the two big band cuts, everything else is
done with piano, bass and drums. No problem with the music, of
course, but after sixty years of vocalese hackwork, I'm surprised
how well the lyrics fit -- she describes them as figuring out a
puzzle -- and "Doozy Blues" should go straight into the songbook
of anyone who's ever been satisfied with a Jon Hendricks lyric.
Michael Pedicin: Ballads . . . Searching for Peace
(2011, Jazz Hut): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947, from Philadelphia,
father played sax on some early rock and roll records in the 1950s.
Tenth album, cites Coltrane for his ballad style, comes out strong
and clear and preternaturally calm. With John Valentino on guitar,
alternating pianists (Barry Miles and Andy Lalasis), bass and drums.
Dida Pelled: Plays and Sings (2010 , Red):
Singer-guitarist, from Israel, based in New York, first album,
recorded in Brooklyn but released on an Italian label associated
with producer (trumpet player on two cuts) Fabio Morgera. With
Tal Ronen on bass, Gregory Hutchinson on drums, and Roy Hargrove
playing trumpet on three tracks. Standards, at least if you count
Wes Montgomery, Horace Silver, and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"
(a Frankie Valli song I definitely count). Engagingly ordinary
voice, holds her own on a couple of long guitar solos.
Oscar Peñas: From Now On (2009 , Bju'ecords):
Guitarist, b. 1972 in Barcelona, Spain; attended Berklee, based in
New York. Has two previous Fresh Sound New Talent albums. This is
a quartet with Dan Blake on tenor and soprano sax, Moto Fukushima
on electric bass, and Richie Barshay on drums, with a couple guests
here and there. His guitar builds on all that classical heritage,
and the soprano in particular is a close harmonic mate.
Oscar Perez Nuevo Comienzo: Afropean Affair (2011,
Chandra): Pianist, born in New York, father left Cuba in 1966.
Studied at University of North Florida and Queens College. Second
album, the first his subsequent group name. With Greg Glassman
(trumpet), Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano sax), Charenee Wade (vocals),
bass, drums, percussion. Ends with the three part "The Afropean Suite"
but all the pieces are flowing suite-like things, the voice adding
an unsettling aura.
B [October 11]
Houston Person: So Nice (2011, High Note): Hard to
think of any tenor saxophonists who have aged so gracefully. Age
76 when this was cut. Interesting that he's added a couple Arbors
artists to sit in on a few tracks: Warren Vaché (4 cuts, including
first three) and Howard Alden (5 cuts, including first two). They
help, and I'd love to hear Person and Vaché cover a full album,
but the really nice stuff is when they drop down to a quartet --
John Di Martino (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Lewis Nash (drums).
Enrico Pieranunzi Latin Jazz Quintet: Live at Birdland
(2008 , CAM Jazz): Pianist, b. 1949 in Rome, Italy, has 30+
records since 1975 -- one of the major jazz pianists of his
generation. For this Latin Jazz project, he wrote 6 of 7 pieces (two
with "Danza" in the title, one "Choro"), and added two horns to his
trio with John Patitucci and Antonio Sanchez: Diego Urcola (trumpet)
and Yosvany Terry (alto & soprano sax, plus a percussion credit).
Jean-Michel Pilc: Essential (2011, Motéma): Pianist,
b. 1960 in Paris, France; at least 14 records since 1989, most from
2000 on. Solo piano, roughly half originals and half covers; not as
fast and furious as some of his trios, but interesting, easiest to
factor on the tortured originals.
Pilc Moutin Hoenig: Threedom (2011, Motema):
Piano trio: Jean-Michel Pilc (piano), François Moutin (bass),
Ari Hoenig (drums). Pilc, b. 1960 in Paris, France, seemed to
explode on the scene in 2000 with a rapid fire series of fast
and fierce albums. I don't get the same sense here: not just
that he's slowed down but that he's working inside the pieces --
needless to say, his sensitivity, touch, and wit are clearest
on the half he didn't write.
Augusto Pirodda: No Comment (2009 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Pianist, b. 1971 in Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy); studied in Netherlands,
now based in Brussels. Has a couple previous albums -- one solo, also
a duo with Michal Vanoucek. Drew the A-Team for this trio: Gary Peacock
on bass, Paul Motian on drums. Quiet, slow, so subtle I damn near missed
it but the bass kept sneaking around to grab me.
Potsa Lotsa: The Complete Works of Eric Dolphy
(2009-10 , Jazzwerkstatt, 2CD): Complete comes to 27 pieces,
dispatched in 95 minutes over two discs. The group is led by alto
saxophonist Silke Eberhard, who arranged the pieces for two brass
(Nikolaus Neuser on trumpet, Gerhard Gschlobl on trombone) and two
saxes (Patrick Braun on tenor, Eberhard on alto). Dolphy usually
played with other horns, so there is some similarity, and the
pieces to managed to evoke all facets of his range.
Mike Prigodich: A Stitch in Time (2011, Mexican Mocha
Music): Pianist, electric keybs as well as acoustic; studied at Wheaton,
worked in Chicago, moved to Portland in 1998. Credits "becoming a cancer
patient in 2008" as a wake-up call, pushing him to compose more, leading
to this first album. Calls his core group MPEG (Melz/Prigodich/Erskine
Group), with Reinhardt Melz on drums, Damian Erskine on bass. Saxophonist
John Nastos, guitarist Brandon Woody, and percussionist Rafael Trujillo
also get credits on the front cover, and a couple others on one or two --
Tim Jensen gets a flute feature. Seems like this gets tripped up in a
couple of spots, rare breaks in the upbeat funk attack. I've always been
a sax fan, and Nastos is consistently tasty here, but the strongest bit
is a guitar solo from the otherwise underutilized Woody.
Scott Ramminger: Crawstickers (2011, Arbor Lane Music):
Singer, plays tenor and other saxes, from DC area, wrote his songs on
his debut album: is basically an r&b guy, upbeat, appreciates the
finer things in life, which include gumbo, cheap beer, and that rumba
Phil Ranelin: Perseverance (2011, Wide Hive):
Trombonist, b. 1940 in Indianapolis. A founder of the Tribe, in
Detroit in the early 1970s, and much later Build an Ark in Los
Angeles, community-centric groups which bridge avant-garde and
populist sensibilities. Front cover proclaims: "With Henry
Franklin and Big Black"; Franklin plays bass, was also b. 1940,
has a couple dozen albums and a hundred side-credits but isn't
a name I recognize; Big Black (Danny Ray) plays conga, is even
older (b. 1934), is someone I've run across a few times before.
Both have sweet spots here, but so does everyone else, with
Kamasi Washington (tenor sax) and Mahesh Balasooriya (piano)
most prominent, also Louis Van Taylor (bass clarinet, alto
flute), Tony Austin (drums), and a couple more percussionists.
Ranelin wrote all the pieces, and sets the pace, his trombone
leads rough and rugged but pitched into grooves, with vamps
all around. My kind of party.
Mark Rapp's Melting Pot: Good Eats (2010 ,
Dinemac): Trumpet player, from South Carolina, moved to New Orleans
and hooked up with Elis Marsalis; now seems to split his time between
New York and Geneva, Switzerland. Has a previous album which should
be in my queue somewhere -- let that be a cautionary tale for folks
who send me advances only; also The Strayhorn Project with
Don Braden's name listed first. The meltdown here is part soul jazz
(Joe Kaplowitz on organ and Ahmad Mansour on guitar), wrapped around
some bebop-boogaloo (6 of the first 7 songs are by Lou Donaldson)
with a funk chaser ("Everything I Do Is Gonna Be Funky," Quincy
Jones' "Streetbeater," and closing with an irresistibly bouncy "The
Glory of Love." Rapp wrote the title cut. Also says here he plays
didgeridoo, too. Don Brade guests on five cuts, tenor sax and alto
Enrico Rava Quintet: Tribe (2010 , ECM): Trumpet
player, b. 1943 in Italy, built a reputation on the avant-garde in the
1970s but his ECM records have lately slowed down, trying to make up in
intensity. Quintet includes Gianluca Petrella, the young trombonist who
got a lot of attention when he was briefly on Blue Note, as well as
Giovanni Guidi on piano, bass and drums, and guest guitar on four cuts.
Red Hot + Rio 2 (2011, E1 Music, 2CD): Twenty-some
years after the first Red Hot + Blue record turned AIDS-fighting
pop stars onto Cole Porter in one of the better songwriter-tribute
records ever, I lost track of the series fifteen years ago when the
first Red Hot + Rio came out. This one doubles down, swelling
to two discs to give extra heft to its second volume status. No lack
of authentic Brazilian stars here -- Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé, Joyce
Moreno, Os Mutantes, also Seu Jorge, Carlhinos Brown, Bebel Gilberto --
often paired with well-meaning Americans ranging from David Byrne to
Aloe Blacc, Of Montreal, and Beirut. I don't have full credits, but
the rhythm section more often than not saves the show. Give it some
time and you'll find some gems, like the one attributed to Toshiyuki
Yasuda ("Aguas de Março").
Ed Reed: Born to Be Blue (2010 , Blue Shorts):
Standards singer, b. 1929, grew up in Watts, but didn't get around
to cutting a record until 2006 -- spent too much time in San Quentin,
for one thing, even if it did give him the chance to sing with Art
Pepper. Starts off slow, especially on the title track. Does get some
help from Anton Schwartz's tenor sax, and gets more comfortable
bouncing between vocalese and Joe Turner, but not much.
Rufus Reid & Out Front: Hues of a Different Blue
(2010 , Motéma): Bassist, prominent enough that he gets his
name as the leader of a piano trio -- the pianist in question is
Steve Allee, who has a few records under his own name, as does
Brazilian drumer Duduka Da Fonseca. Allee is sharp here, and Reid
gets in some solos. He's also lined up guests to mix it up on five
tracks (if you believe the credits, which I don't): various mixes
of Toninho Horta (guitar), Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), JD Allen
(tenor sax), and Bobby Watson (credited with tenor sax, but must
be alto; Watson also appears uncounted on "These Foolish Things":
Greg Reitan: Daybreak (2011, Sunnyside): Pianist,
originally from Seattle, based in Los Angeles. Third album, all
trios with Jack Daro on bass and Dean Koba on drums. Wrote most
of twelve songs, but covers Shorter, Zeitlin, Jarrett, and Evans.
Nadav Remez: So Far (2010 , Bju'ecords): Guitarist,
from Israel, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory. First album,
with alto sax/clarine (James Wylie), tenor sax (Steve Brickman), trumpet
on two tracks (Itamar Borochov), piano (Shai Maestro), bass (Avri Borochov),
and drums (Ziv Ravitz). Wrote 8 of 9 pieces, the other by trad. The large
group tends to crowd him out, but "The Miracle" is an exception where he
builds up solid, solemn force.
The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Montreal Parade
(2011, 482 Music): Dave Rempis, best known as the Vandermark 5's
junior saxophonist, leads, the group name reflecting that the
quartet has two drummers (Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly). Even with
double the drum solos, Rempis is fast and furious out front. The
other member is bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, of Vandermark's
School Days project (and many more). Two long pieces, free jazz
blowouts. (Wonder whether another spin or two would push it over
the top -- this is the third straight RPQ album with the same
grade, which makes me suspect at least one should go higher.)
Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 (2010 ,
Doxy/Emarcy): First volume seemed archival, spanning 28 years
with scattered groups, not that the tenor sax changed much over
time. This one sticks with three recent concerts, pulling one
cut from each of two October, 2010 shows to sandwich four cuts
from Rollins' 80th birthday bash on Sept. 10, 2010. The party
cuts shuttled guest stars in and out: Christian McBride, Roy
Haynes, Jim Hall (one cut with Rollins introducing but laying
out), Ornette Coleman (also one cut, introduced enigmatically),
and Roy Hargrove (two cuts). I'm tempted to complain about the
talk, but he's always gracious, presumably even more so in his
Japanese during the closer ("St. Thomas" -- only thing wrong
there is that at 2:50 it's way too short). Also about dilution,
but Hargrove makes a fine foil for "Rain Check," and I've yet
to fully puzzle out Coleman's solo. But why complain? As Rollins
himself said of Coleman Hawkins, it's impossible to think of him
without feeling joy.
Daniel Rosenthal: Lines (2010 , American Melody):
Trumpet player, based in Boston, studied with Steve Lacy at New England
Conservatory, has played in Either/Orchestra since 2006 (which got him
in on their Ethiopian kick). First album. Mostly a two-horn quartet,
with Rick Stone's alto sax slipping and sliding around him, cutting a
clean harmonic path. Four tracks add Wes Corbett on banjo -- the closer,
"Standing," is mostly just the two of them, and especially striking.
Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (2010 ,
Playscape): Pianist, b. 1959, one of those names I recognize from
Concord's Maybeck Recital Hall Series but never bothered
to investigate further. Fourteenth album since 1989, a trio with
Noriko Ueda on bass and Quincy Davis on drums, all standards, all
ones I should know instantly but are reworked so thoroughly I
only catch occasional glimpses. Jumps right at you from the git
go; even when they slow down you're never quite sure what they're
up to. In short, the sort of invention you rarely find in a piano
trio, where everything old is new again.
Florencia Ruiz: Luz de la Noche (Light of the Night)
(2011, Adventure Music): Argentine diva, or maybe I just mean torch
singer, projects a lot of drama and emotion, although for all I know
she could be as vapid as Enya -- a comparison I've seen, though meant
to be more flattering. Hugo Fattoroso (piano) and Jaques Morelembaum
(cello) are cited as "featuring" -- must be big names in Argentina,
because they only show up for one and two cuts here.
Samo Salamon Trio: Almost Almond (2006 ,
Sanje): Guitarist, b. 1978 in Yugoslavia, now Slovenia. Twelve
albums since 2002, counting one as Ansasa Trio. Trio with Drew
Gress on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. I've mostly heard him
with saxophone in the past -- cf. Two Hours, with Tony
Malaby -- where he fights his way to the front, but starting
out there he's less aggressive here, steely at best, slipping
into a crafted eloquence near the end.
Dino Saluzzi: Navidad de los Andes (2010 ,
ECM): Argentine bandoneon player, b. 1935, twelfth album for ECM
since 1982. Or maybe more: AMG has lately developed a bad habit of
misfiling records under second or third artists, so they attribute
this one to cellist Anja Lechner. Third artist here is Felix Saluzzi
(tenor sax, clarinet): he makes very little impact here, but is a
plus when he does. "Christmas in the Andes": not insuferably Xmas-y;
in fact, all Saluzzi originals with a couple of co-credits. Slow,
lush sounds in spare arrangements.
Poncho Sanchez/Terence Blanchard: Chano y Dizzy!
(2011, Concord Picante): Reasonable headliners for a recital of a
prime slice of jazz history, but Blanchard won't risk losing his
cool so has no way of touching Gillespie, and Sanchez couldn't be
crazier than Pozo if his life depended on it. Starts with a medley --
"Tin Tin Deo," "Manteca," "Guachi Guaro" -- then "Con Alma" before
letting Blanchard and others in the band peddle their wares. Winds
up being a real nice groove album, with equally nice ballad spots,
not that I understand why.
Heikki Sarmanto Big Band: Everything Is It (1972
, Porter): Pianist, b. 1939 in Finland, influenced by George
Russell, ran an interesting avant-fusion band in the early 1970s,
later became artistic director of UMO Jazz Orchestra. His big band
is long on reeds (including Eero Koivistoinen and Juhani Aaltonen,
names you should know by now), short on brass (three trumpets, two
trombones), doubled up on drums. Noisy as these things go, which
is fine with me, but the main distinction here is Taru Valjakka's
soprano-diva vocals on the "Marat" suite, which I could have done
Jake Saslow: Crosby Street (2011, 14th Street):
Tenor saxophonist, debut album, inventive postbop with a soft edge.
With Mike Moreno (guitar) and/or Fabian Alamzan (piano), plus bass
(Joe Martin) and drums (Marcus Gilmore).
Jonathan Scales: Character Farm & Other Short Stories
(2011, Le Rue): Plays steel pan, an instrument common in Trinidad,
functions here like vibes in a rhythmic flow of guitar, bass, and
percussion. Third album. Attractively packaged in comic book/graphic
novel art by Gregory Keyzer. Some guests appearances, adding soprano
sax or flute or violin. No words, which is OK by me.
Scenes: Silent Photographer (2010 , Origin):
Trio: guitarist John Stowell, bassist Jeff Johnson, drummer John
Bishop. Stowell has long struck me as an interesting, understated
stylist, and his records -- both under his own name and as Scenes --
have generally been close to my HM line. This time Johnson outwrote
him 4 to 3 -- the other three pieces are by Shorter, Hancock, and
Andreas Schmidt/Samuel Rohrer/Thomas Heberer: Pieces for a
Husky Puzzle (2009, Jazzwerkstatt): Piano, drums, trumpet
respectively. Schmidt was b. 1967, more than a dozen credits start
around 1990, hard to tell how many; AMG lists Andreas Schmidt as a
classical music vocalist, but that is someone else (b. 1960). Seven
cuts, each called "Puzzle Piece" followed by a number. Slow and
abstract improvs, thoughtful and brooding (or maybe just droning);
doesn't leave the drummer much to do.
John Scofield: A Moment's Peace (2011, Emarcy):
Guitarist, was a key figure in the 1980s and up through Groove
Elation and Quiet in 1994-96 with his fluid style and
fascination with funk grooves, but hasn't done much of interest
since. This is a back-to-basics quartet, with Larry Goldings on
piano and organ, Scott Colley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums.
Temper changes depending on Goldings' keyboard choice, but that
highlights both sides of Scofield's style. His best album since
his heyday: had it come out in 1998 we might complain that he's
slowing down, but now it feels like a welcome second breath.
Dred Scott: Prepared Piano (2007-08 , Robertson):
Pianist, originally from St. Louis, went to college in Ohio, spent 10
years in Bay Area, then moved to New York in 1999, which makes him how
old? Extensive discography on his site goes back to a 1991 record with
Anthony Braxton (8+3 Tristano Compositions), but aside from his
three trio records I've heard of nothing else he's done. He played
drums on that Braxton record -- probably the right orientation for
prepared piano ("Funky" sounds like it's mostly percussion). Mostly
short pieces, discreet building blocks ready to add up to something.
[My impression is that this is being reissued on Ropeadope, but my
copy looks like the old, original edition.]
Dred Scott Trio: Going Nowhere (2010 , Ropeadope):
Can't find any evidence that Dred Scott isn't the pianist's given name.
Like his famous namesake he is from St. Louis, but the resemblance ends
there. With Ben Rubin on bass and Tony Mason on drums. All originals
except for a shrewdly deconstructed "7 Steps to Heaven." I am duly
impressed, but don't have much to say.
Mark Segger Sextet: The Beginning (2010 ,
18th Note): Drummer, from Edmonton, now based in Toronto, first
album; composes all eight pieces here, for a sextet including
trumpet (Jim Lewis), tenor sax/clarinet (Chris Willes), trombone
(Heather Segger), piano/melodica (Tania Gill), and bass (Andrew
Downing). He calls the pieces "idiosyncratic" with such sources
as "soca rhythms, chamber music, and the abstract pointillism of
contemporary free improvisation." No doubt about idiosyncratic:
slippery postbop, disjointed and improbably reconnected.
Karl Seglem: Ossicles (2005-10 , Ozella):
Tenor saxophonist, from Norway, 27th album since 1988 (AMG lists
15; also misspells his name two different ways in their brief
bio). Draws on folk sources, playing against hardanger fiddle,
incorporating various goat horns (one credit for antilope horn
[sic?]), with a bit of African mbira.
Sara Serpa: Mobile (2010, Inner Circle Music):
Singer, b. 1979 in Portugal, studied at Berklee and New England
Conservatory, based in New York. Has a duo album with Ran Blake,
at least three under her own name. This one is spare, mostly
done with just bass and drums (Ben Street and Ted Poor), with
piano added on 4 (of 10) cuts (Kris Davis) and guitar on three
of those (Andre Matos). Texts are evidently taken from lit --
Homer, Herodotus, Melville, Steinbeck, Naipaul, Kapuscinski --
although I can't make any of them out and suspect she's just
SFE: Positions & Descriptions: Simon H. Fell Composition
No. 75 (2011, Clean Feed): Not sure what SFE stands for --
Simon Fell Ensemble? (Having a bad eye day, and the microprint on
the foldout is all blurred.) Fell is a bassist, b. 1959 in England,
has a couple dozen albums since 1985, some dedicated to numbered
compositions. He's someone anyone who's spent much time perusing
The Penguin Guide will know about, but this is the first of
his records I've actually come across. Group has 15 members plus
conductor Clark Rundell, offering a bit of everything: flute, two
clarinets, alto and bari sax, trumpet, tuned percussion, harps,
piano, guitar, violin, theremin, bass, drums, electronics. Wish
I had a better sense of how this fits in. Doesn't strike me as
cluttered or chaotic, but sure is complex.
Kenny Shanker: Steppin' Up (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Alto saxophonist, from New York, first album, with Art Hirahara on
piano and Lage Lund on guitar. Wrote 9 (of 10) pieces, ending with
"Somewhere." Typical postbop moves, a bit on the shiny side, always
a risk with his instrument.
Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Broken Partials (2010 ,
Not Two): Piano-bass duo. Shipp is one of the few pianists I can follow
all the way down to solo, probably because his attack remains so sharp,
but also the flow of his lines makes sense. Morris is best known as a
guitarist, but is warm and supportive on bass, and shows more edge
than I expected when he gets the lead.
Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder: The Key Is in the Window
(2010 , Tzviryu Music): Trumpet-guitar duets. Monder is a well-known
guitarist but most of what you know about him -- especially his sense of
groove -- is not relevant here. Don't know much about Shragge: studied
at New School and NYU, is interested in the music of North India and
Japan, also plays shakuhachi. Looks like his first album, although he
has a piece of another one (or two). Mostly slow, deep, trance-like.
Jen Shyu/Mark Dresser: Synastry (2009-10 , Pi):
Vocalist, b. 1978 in Peoria, IL; parents from Taiwan and East Timor;
based in New York. Has several albums since 2002, a research interest
in "Taiwanese folk and aboriginal music" extending to Chinese-Cubans,
but is best known for her work with Steve Coleman's group. Dresser,
of course, is one of our foremost bassists, so these are voice-bass
duos. I have a tough time when jazz singers get arty -- a primal case
of opera-phobia, I'm afraid -- but this somehow slips through.
Side A: A New Margin (2010 , Clean Feed):
Free jazz trio: Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Håvard Wiik
(piano), Chad Taylor (drums). First group album, although Wiik is
in Vandermark's Jimmy Giuffre-inspired Free Fall group and they
have five or so albums together, and Taylor has been bouncing
around Chicago's underground long enough he must have bumped into
Vandermark somewhere. Writing credits are evenly distributed.
Given recording date omits year, but the most likely October is
last year. Vandermark takes a clarinet feature with remarkable
grace and poise, but he mostly races through fast changes, loud
and rough yet they seem remarkably complete and coherent.
Audrey Silver: Dream Awhile (2009 , Messy
House): Standards singer, got an MBA and worked in advertising,
A&:R at CBS Masterworks, then became Director of Marketing at
a jazz label (Chesky). Cites Jon Raney (pianist son of guitarist
Jimmy Raney) for pointing her back to performing, and Sheila
Jordan for lessons. Second album, backed with piano-bass-drums
plus guitar on 3 (of 11) cuts. Can start a song on her own and
find a unique path through it.
Alex Sipiagin: Destinations Unknown (2011, Criss
Cross): Trumpet player, b. 1967 in Russia, moved to US in 1991,
started in big bands, has more than a dozen albums since 1998.
Bright tone, dynamic, runs in fast company with Chris Potter and
David Binney on sax, Craig Taborn on keyb, Boris Kozlov on bass,
and Eric Harland on drums. A little fancy for hard bop, or basic
(meaning hard-charging) for postbop. The long set closes with
Enoch Smith Jr.: Misfits (2011, self-released):
Pianist, b. 1978 in Rochester, NY. Second album, a piano trio plus
vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles -- although there are also uncredited
male vocals. Seems like too much singing at first, especially once
Smith finally opens up some space for his unconventionally percussive
piano. Mostly originals; covers include "Caravan" and "Blackbird"
(one song I wish the jazz world would just give up on).
Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets
(2007 , TUM): For such an uncompromising avant-gardist, Smith
has been remarkably catholic recently, working in all sorts of combos
and forms. No mbira here (although it's a song title): trio consists
of Min Xiao-Fen, from Nanjing, China, who plays pipa, and Pheroan
akLaff on drums. Min has several albums -- traditional Chinese and
classical, I gather. She provides an exotic twist here, but doesn't
settle into a consistent role, so she mostly serves to set Smith
Warren Smith: Dragon Dave Meets Prince Black Knight From the
Darkside of the Moon (1988 , Porter): Drummer, b. 1934,
AMG credits him with seven albums since 1979, or maybe nine, but they
also confuse him with the eponymous rockabilly singer from the 1950s.
Has well over 100 side credits, early on including Mingus, Kirk, and
Pearls Before Swine (also says here he was on Astral Weeks and
Lady Soul and Best of Herbie Mann). When he did get a
chance to record for a fairly mainstream label he called his record
Cats Are Stealing My $hit (on Mapleshade in 1995). Anyway,
no one stole this, uh, "children's story -- with adult language --
depicting the conflict between two super beings (super powers) unable
to co-exist, whose resulting clash disturbs and alters the face of
the planet" -- i.e., the state of the world in the 1980s. Could be
more didactic, but it's hard to follow the voices, especially with
all the crashes and explosions. On the other hand, Smith's marimba
keeps the clashes moving along smartly.
Sonore: Cafe Oto/London (2011, Trost): Free sax trio:
Peter Brötzmann (alto/tenor sax, clarinet, tarogato), Ken Vandearmark
(tenor sax, clarinet), Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax). Fourth album
for group, although each has played with one or both of the others
many times. Each wrote one piece; the fourth is jointly attributed,
which usually means improvised on the spot. Even at 38:42 the noise
can be wearing, especially since each horn has the same palette to
Tyshawn Sorey: Oblique - I (2011, Pi): Drummer,
b. 1980, first caught my attention in bands with Vijay Iyer and/or
Steve Lehman, especially Fieldwork. Released a composer's album
in 2007, That/Not, which got a lot of attention (number two
on Francis Davis's year-end list) -- I had to go to Rhapsody for
a listen, was duly impressed, but couldn't spend much time with it.
Between 2002-06 he composed a set of 41 compositions, ten of which
appear here, in a quintet setting with Loren Stillman (alto sax),
Todd Neufeld (guitar), John Escreet (keyboards), and Chris Tordini
(bass). The pieces slip and slide around the free rhythm, not easy
and never settling into any sort of norm.
Sounds and Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher (1980-2008
, ECM): Soundtrack for a film by Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedner,
a documentary on ECM founder/producer Manfred Eicher. Leans toward the
classical end of ECM's spectrum -- one Puccini cut, two Arvo Pärt, plus
affinity exotica from Gurdjieff, Anouar Brahem, Dino Saluzzi, Eleni
Karaindrou -- and away from conventional jazz. Enjoyed a bit of Marilyn
Mazur percussion. One could easily construct a better sampler.
The Spokes: Not So Fast (2009 , Strudelmedia):
Title is descriptive enough: hard to get much momentum without bass
and drums, especially if all you have to work with are horns, plus
you get that sax quartet feel with nothing but neatly puffed discrete
notes. Trio: Andy Biskin (clarinet), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone),
Phillip Johnston (soprano sax). All three write: Biskin 6 of 12,
Johnston 4, Hasselbring 2.
Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (2011,
Delmark): Bass clarinetist, b. 1976 in Long Island, studied at
Bennington (Charles Gayle, Milford Graves) and Michigan, wound
up in Chicago where he hooked into one of Ken Vandermark's less
successful projects (Bridge 61). Has three trio albums as Locksmith
Isidore, each step showing growth, and a Solo that ain't
bad for that sort of thing. Adds a second, sharper horn to get
a quartet -- Keefe Jackson on tenor sax and contrabass clarinet --
along with Joshua Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. The
sax works with and against the bass clarinet.
John Stein: Hi Fly (2011, Whaling City Sound):
Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, studied and teaches at
Berklee; ten albums since 1995. Quartet with Jake Sherman on
piano and organ, John Lockwood on bass, and Ze Eduardo Nazario
on drums. Wrote 5 of 10 songs, the others trending standard
except for Randy Weston's title tune, the originals leaning
toward John Scofield-style funk. The organ fits that mode but
isn't a major factor.
Andrew Sterman: Wet Paint (2011, Innova): Plays
tenor sax and alto flute. I figure this is his fifth album since
2002, but AMG splits him up between classical -- he has an album
of Philip Glass: Saxophone (Glass, of course, is a pop
star in my house) -- and otherwise (meaning jazz in this case).
With piano-bass-drums across the board, otherwise split up with
Richie Vitale's trumpet/flugelhorn on four cuts, Todd Reynolds'
violin on four more -- each taking on the characteristics of the
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
(2011, Constellation): Saxophonist -- plays most reeds, French horn,
flute, cornet, but is most noted for the big bass sax -- originally
from Ann Arbor, based in Montreal where he works with Arcade Fire
and Bell Orchestre. AMG lists four albums, including New History
Warfare Vol. 1 in 2008. This is billed as "solo horn compositions"
but some percussion is evident, one song is labeled a Bell Orchestre
remix, and there are occasional vocals -- Sheila Worden somewhere,
Laurie Anderson spoken word on four pieces. Circular breathing turns
the horn vamps into continuous tapestries, patterns repeating with
various dissonances, and everything else just adds to the sonic
Colin Stetson: Those Who Didn't Run (2011, Constellation,
EP): Two ten-minute pieces. Don't have credits, but sounds like circular
breathing sax vamps shagged by extra electronics, the rhythm in the
repetition, the dissonance all over the place. Impressive, but on the
way to wearing out its welcome when it ended.
Joan Stiles: Three Musicians (2011, Oo-Bla-Dee):
The other two, their names flanking Stiles' somewhat less boldly,
are saxophonist Joel Frahm (tenor, one cut on soprano) and drummer
Matt Wilson. Stiles is a pianist, moved from classical to jazz in
1986 at Manhattan School of Music, and contiues to teach there and
at the New School. Third album, the group here stripped down from
the sextet she used on the remarkable Hurly Burly. Two
originals, not counting "In the Sunshine of My Funny Valentine's
Love" which is credited to Rodgers/Clapton/Bach. One from Mary
Lou Williams, who is more than a research interest, followed by
two Monks, which set up the remarkable interpolation of "Brother,
Can You Spare a Dime?/Can't Buy Me Love." Frahm is superb, of
course, in etching out the themes Stiles elaborates.
Rick Stone Trio: Fractals (2011, Jazzand): Guitarist,
from Cleveland, studied at Berklee, wound up in New York. Fourth album
since 1990, widely spaced (1994, 2004, 2011). Four covers -- three
standards and a Billy Strayhorn piece you don't run into often ("Ballad
for Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters") -- seven originals. Trio
with Marco Panascia on bass and Tom Pollard on drums. Has a thin
metallic sound, focused on long likes like Wes Montgomery but doesn't
pick up the pace.
John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Shot Through With
Beauty (2007-09 , Origin): Guitar and tenor/soprano
sax respectively, with John Shifflett (acoustic bass) and Jason
Lewis (drums) below the line. Stowell is the senior member, from
Connecticut, seems to be based in Portland, OR. Cut his first
record in 1978, then not much until he landed on Origin in 1998.
He has a distinctive, seductive style, with several recent HM
candidates (mostly under the group name Scenes). Zilber plays
tenor and soprano sax; has four records since 1988. He wrote
four songs here (one co-credited to Stowell); Shifflett and
Lewis wrote one each -- the other four are from Kenny Wheeler,
Dizzy Gillespie, and John Scofield (two). Often-delicate postbop,
the sax personable, the guitar adds to the sparkle.
Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Anticipation
(2011, Capri): Front cover and spine mention surnames only. Piano trio,
drummer's name first, probably because he has three previous albums with
the label, whereas pianist Zaleski's only other credit is second billed
behind Mark Zaleski, and bassist Rosato only has one other side credit.
Six originals (Zaleski 3, Rosato 2, Stranahan 1), three covers ("All
the Things You Are," "Boplicity," "I Should Care"). Solid work, a bit
on the quiet side.
Marcus Strickland: Triumph of the Heavy: Volume 1 & 2
(2011, Strick Muzik, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1979, has consistently
impressed at least since 2006 -- I haven't the two 2001-03 FSNTs, which
AMG doesn't think much of -- always seeming on the edge of breaking
something big wide open. I guess this is it: it's certainly big, with
one trio disc -- the second, the Ben Williams on bass and twin brother
E.J. Strickland on drums -- the other adding pianist David Bryant. The
quartet is spread out a bit more, and thinner as Strickland switches
to alto for 5 of 10 tracks, and soprano on three -- plays tenor on four,
the main reason the totals don't add up is that he plays everything
(including clarinet and bass clarinet) on "Virgo." Probably safe to
rank him the best soprano among his generation of tenor players -- it
seems like an organic extension of his tenor rather than something he
copped from Coltrane or Shorter (or Marsalis or Potter). Still, the
first disc won me over; the second just kicked my ass.
Jane Stuart: Don't Look Back (2010 , JSM):
Standards singer (wrote 1 of 12 songs here; 1 of 13 on her previous
album). Based in New York. Second album. Band includes Dave Stryker
(guitar) and Dick Oatts (alto sax, flute) although I didn't notice
them much. Two Lennon-McCartneys (a decent arrangement of the
unjazzable "Eleanor Rigby"), two Dave Frishbergs, one Gershwin
(a nice shot at "Summertime" which has been done and done and
never wears out), one Porter, others more obscure.
JC Stylles: Exhilaration and Other States (2009
, Motéma Music): No periods to be seen anywhere near "JC" --
may stand for his given name, Jason Campbell. Ampersand on spine
title but not on cover. AMG misfiled this under Pat Bianchi's name.
Stylles is a guitarist, New York-based, first album. Bianchi plays
organ, and Lawrence Leathers drums, so this is a soul jazz retro.
Nicely done, as these things go. "Love for Sale" is a romp; "Don't
Explain" is plaintive and delicate.
Ira Sullivan & Stu Katz: A Family Affair: Live at Joe
Segal's Jazz Showcase (2010 , Origin): Couple of old
guys with big grins on the cover. Sullivan's a Chicago fixture:
b. 1931, cut a couple albums in the late 1950s, shows up every now
and then, mostly playing tenor sax, sometimes alto, soprano, trumpet,
flugelhorn, flute -- cut an album in 1981 called Ira Sullivan
Does It All. Left the flute home here (thanks for that). Katz
plays vibes. AMG gives him one side credit back in 1970. Group
straddles swing and bop, starting with two new Sullivan pieces,
then "Pennies From Heaven," then "Scrapple From the Apple." They
bring up a singer for "Yesterdays" -- Lucia Newell, forget how she
was introduced but she slings the scat liberally.
Travis Sullivan: New Directions (2010 ,
Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, b. 1971, has a couple previous records,
the first from 2000, another a collection of Björk songs released in
2008 as Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra. Mainstream quartet with Mike
Eckroth (piano), Marco Panascia (bass), and Brian Fishler (drums).
Eight originals, two covers (one Rodgers/Hart). Nothing strikes me
as a new direction, but the sax is fast and slick and inclined to
soar out of the matrix. Hard to complain about that combo.
Susan SurfTone: Shore (2011, Acme Brothers):
Guitarist, signs her songs Susan L. Yasinski. Group includes organ,
bass, and drums, by Avory, Lynn, and Stephi SurfTone, respectively.
Basically, instrumental rock, like Dick Dale, or Duane Eddy without
a signature trick. Her originals all have agreeably brief one-word
titles. Ends with a cover of "Riders on the Storm." Nothing wrong
with this, but it's pretty far down on the list of things I find
John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Workshop - April '69
(1969 , Cuneiform, CD+DVD): The middle of a very rich period
for the 25-year-old soprano/baritone saxophonist, coming out of
Mike Westbrook's group, leading The Trio (with Barre Phillips and
Stu Martin), his first album under his own name just out and his
big band Tales of the Algonquin in the near future, and
(this and) other projects falling through the cracks. His NDR
workshop assembled four reeds (Surman, Alan Skidmore on tenor sax
and flute, Ronnie Scott on tenor sax, Mike Osborne on alto sax),
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths
and Eric Kleinschuefer), piano (Fritz Pauer), bass (Harry Miller),
and drums (Alan Jackson). Five pieces: the two featuring Surman's
soprano are irresistible vamps, as is the closer after they get
past their everyone-raise-hell patch at the beginning. The slower
pieces have more trouble gaining traction, although there are
crackling solos here and there. The DVD is a straight b&w
take of the album -- probably a rehearsal but close to the final
The Tierney Sutton Band: American Road (2011, BFM
Jazz): Sutton is a standards singer, ninth album since 1998; I don't
know them all, but wasn't much impressed until she got happy with
On the Other Side in 2006. After a good record idiosyncrasies
start to look like character traits, although the confluence of the
two would be pretty clear here in any case. She's in the band as a
matter of principle, but singer's bands are meant to be invisible --
Betty Carter's excepted, of course, but we're not talking her here --
and this one is pretty anonymous. Her standards this time are well
worn, and she piles the weight on, more than "On Broadway" can handle,
enough to make "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" creak. And
I'm dumfounded by an "Amazing Grace" that isn't anywhere near graceful
but remarkable nonetheless, and an "America the Beautiful" that isn't,
that I'd just as soon not be bothered with. She's finally convinced
me that she's kind of weird. But she's still not Betty Carter.
The Taal Tantra Experience: Sixth Sense (2011, Ozella):
German-based Indian music group, led by tabla player Tanmoy Bose, with
a mix of German and Indian names in the microscopic credits text. The
tabla is impressive enough, but the fusion tends to even things out,
as if the jazz component was smooth.
Tarana: After the Disquiet (EP) (2011, self-released,
EP): Indian drummer Ravish Momin, from Hyderabad, studied north Indian
classical music, then went to Carnegie Mellon for an engineering degree.
Has two albums on Clean Feed with different editions of his Trio Tarana,
typically violin and oud. (The first, with Jason Kao Hwang and Shanir
Ezra Blumenkranz, is excellent.) Here his group is down to two, a duo
with Trina Basu on violin, recorded live at Bop Shop in Rochester.
Four tracks, 34:06, available digitally at Bandcamp for $3. Something
of a retreat, but he still gets most of the trio effect here, adding
some electronics for diversity.
Frank Tate: Thanks for the Memory: Frank Tate's Musical Tribute
to Bobby Short (2011, Arbors): Bassist, b. 1943, has a couple
albums since 1993, many more side credits going back to Zoot Sims in
1981, Ruby Braff in 1991, a lot of Arbors artists since then. Short is
a name I barely recognize -- in fact, I missed him in putting together
my database of people I should know about, something in need of a fix.
B. 1924, d. 2005, played piano and sung standards, mostly working night
clubs. He recorded close to two dozen albums from 1955 to 2001, including
a series of songbooks in the 1970s (Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Gershwin,
Rodgers & Hart; his Andy Razaf came out in 1987). Tate describes
Short as "the most influential musician in his career." With Mike Renzi
on piano and Joe Ascione on drums, Tate rounded up "a half-dozen of
Bobby Short's saloon colleagues" to take two or three songs each:
Barbara Carroll, Rebecca Kilgore, Daryl Sherman, Charles Cochran,
Ronny Whyte, and Chris Gillespie. All classic songbook fare -- comfort
food in the trade.
3 Cohens: Family (2011, Anzic): Siblings Anat Cohen
(tenor sax, clarinet), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), and Yuval Cohen (soprano
sax) -- the former the best known, but the writing chores fell to the
boys (Avishai 3, Yuval 2). The other five are presumably songs they
vamped on around the old kibbutz campfire: "The Mooch," "Do You Know
What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "On the Sunny Side of the Street,"
"Tiger Rag," and "Roll 'Em Pete." Rhythm section they picked up in New
York -- Aaron Goldberg (piano), Matt Penman (bass), Gregory Hutchinson
(drums) -- along with two-song singer Jon Hendricks, whose mannerisms
have gotten creaky enough to be endearing.
Tin/Bag: Bridges (2010 , MabNotesMusic):
Duo: Kris Tiner (trumpet) and Mike Baggetta (guitar). Third album
together, the first under their names, the second a quartet as
Tin/Bag. (Artwork uses a vertical bar here, which causes software
problems for me so I'm sticking with the slash.) Six Tiner pieces,
two by Baggetta, closes with "Just Like a Woman" by Bob Dylan.
It all plays very tentative -- slow, indeterminate. Interesting
how they tiptoe around Dylan's melody. Harder to appreciate that
on their own less known material.
Kevin Tkacz Trio: It's Not What You Think (2007 ,
Piece of Work of Art): Bassist, based in Brooklyn. First (and evidently
only) record, a piano trio with Bill Carrothers and Michael Sarin. Two
songs credited to Tkacz, one to Rogers and Hart, the rest group improvs.
Best thing I've heard by Carrothers in several years, probably because
he gets a little dirty, as does the bass.
Chandler Travis: Philharmonic Blows! (2009 ,
Sonic Trout): Gray-beared guitarist-singer, back cover says he's
82, but I haven't found anywhere else that confirms that. AMG lists
eight albums since 1993. Before that he was in a rock group called
the Incredible Casuals: memorialized here in "The Day the Casuals
Went to Sweden," easily the lousiest song here. What that song lacks
is the squeaky, shrieking brass the albums opens and closes with,
more than fulfilling the party graphics on the cover.
Tribute to JJ Cale, Volume 1: The Vocal Sessions
(2010, Zoho Roots): Cale, b. 1938, is a singer-songwriter from
Oklahoma. He was best known in the 1970s: I panned Okie
(1974) in my ancient Rekord Report, then didn't bother with him
until I got a set of 1973-83 Unreleased Recordings in 2007
and slammed it too. He liked blues form but couldn't bring himself
to play blues, scruples that don't bother the label's stable, so
they mostly just play and shout louder: Swamp Cabbage, JJ Grey,
Jimmy Hall, Rufus Huff, Greg Skaff, Dixie Tabernacle, nobody but
the Persuasions you'd have heard of if not on the label's mailing
list. I've been avoiding this, but it's pretty tolerable, with
"Same Old Blues" markedly improved. Otherwise, the only choice
cuts are by the Persuasions, who are way out of this league.
Never got Volume 2: The Instrumental Sessions -- just as
well with me.
Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Frère Jacques: Round About
Offenbach (2009 , ECM): The leaders play clarinet and
accordion, respectively. Trovesi, b. 1944, made an early mark in the
avant-garde (mostly on alto sax), but since he joined ECM he's been
picking around in his classical training, previously teaming with
Coscia for a Round About Weill (and earlier, In Cerca di
Cibo). Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) was born in Cologne, son of
a synagogue cantor, moved to Paris to study and remained in his new
country, mostly writing popular operettas. About half of the music
here comes from him, the rest by Trovesi and Coscia, much of it
explicitly paired to an Offenbach piece.
Tunnel Six: Lake Superior (2010 , OA2):
Sextet: two horns, piano plus guitar, bass and drums: Ben Dietschi
(saxes), Chad McCullough (trumpet/flugelhorn), Andrew Oliver (piano),
Brian Seligman (guitar), Ron Hynes (bass), Tyson Stubelek (drums).
Only McCullough and Oliver are in my database. Only the drummer
missed out on a writing credit (Dietschi, McCullough, and Seligman
have two each). Group met at a Banff Centre jazz workshop, and
recorded this in Portland. Pretty ingratiating as postbop goes,
everyone well behaved and supportive. Couple dull spots but most
bright and cheery.
Ursa Minor: Showface (2011, Anthemusa): New York rock
group fronted by singer Michelle Casillas, had a previous album in 2003.
Doesn't belong here but someone sent me a copy, guitarist-producer Tony
Scherr has something of a jazz rep, not sure that drummer Robert DiPietro
doesn't ring a bell somewhere, and some of the guests definitely do (e.g.,
trombonist Ryan Keberle). The strings and French horns do little to alter
the fact that this is a guitar band, the singer is mostly affectless but
on a slow one turns on the charm. Seems like a nice group going nowhere.
Freddy V: Easier Than It Looks (2008 , Watersign):
Saxophonist (tenor, alto), Fred Vigdor, basically an r&b guy,
first album as such, with a band he calls Mo Pleasure. Background
starts with playing sax and arranging horns for Average White Band,
the most plainly soulful of the post-Allman white rock bands to
emerge from the South in the 1970s -- a credit, I'd say, to the
horns. A couple of soul vocals, a lot of tasty sax licks and easy
going rhythmic raunch, which means it will be slotted with smooth
jazz even though it's a cut above. AMG lists this as 2008, but the
publicist swears the street date is Sept. 13, 2011. They do that.
Freddy V: Easier Than It Looks (2008 , Watersign):
Two mistakes here: I associated Fred Vigdor's old Average White Band
with the Southern rock of the 1970s when in fact the band hailed from
Scotland. I also misidentified Mo Pleasure as the name of another Vigdor
band; actually, Mo[rris] Pleasure started out playing bass for Ray
Charles, and has since worked with Earth Wind & Fire and Michael
Jackson -- well, also Najee.
Warren Vaché: Ballads and Other Cautionary Tales
(2011, Arbors): Trad-leaning cornet player, reaches for the ballad
songbook not so much because at 60 he's slowing down as he wants
to enjoy the scenery. A few with just bass and drums, joining in
pianist Tardo Hammer on 6 (of 12), trombonist John Allred on one
of those, and tenor saxophonist Houston Person on three others.
Person damn near steals the show.
Dave Valentin: Pure Imagination (2011, High Note):
Flute player, b. 1954 in Chelmsford, England; has a couple dozen
albums since 1979, at least lately relying heavily on Latin rhythms
which set his flute off nicely. He has a group here that can do
that -- Bill O'Connell (piano), Ruben Rodriguez (bass), Robby Ameen
(drums), and especially Richie Flores (percussion) -- and the opener
"Smile" does just that. Afterwards it's hit and miss.
André Vasconcellos: 2 (2009 , Adventure Music):
Bassist, from Brazil; second album, following one in 2004 called
Observatorio. Wrote 7 of 8 songs, the odd one out by guitarist
Ricardo Vasconcellos (relationship undetermined). Mostly quintet,
with tenor saxophonist Josue Lopez making a big impression, Allen
Pontes on drums, David Feldman or Renato Fonseca on piano, Ricardo
Vasconcellos or Torcuato Mariano on guitar. Strong pulse from the
bass driving the flow, prime solo spots on piano and guitar. No
samba, no choro, more like postbop but organic.
Vicious World: Plays the Music of Rufus Wainwright
(2010 , Spinaround): Leaders of this project are saxophonist
Aaron Irwin (b. 1978 in Decatur, IL; has a couple FSNT albums; arranged
7 of 11 songs here) and trombonist Matthew McDonald (no idea; arranged
the other 4 songs). The group also includes guitar (Sebastian Noelle),
bass (Thomson Kneeland), drums (Danny Fischer), violin (Eliza Cho),
and cello (Maria Jeffers). I know a great deal about Wainwright's
parents, all the way down to "Rufus Is a Tit Man," but virtually
nothing of his own music: tried his first album and never went back.
The rock rhythms are straightforward, the guitar and bass structural;
the trombone makes an especially adept lead instrument here, and the
strings add essential texture.
Geoff Vidal: She Likes That (2009 , Arts and
Music Factory): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1980, from New Orleans, based
in New York since 2006. First album, a postbop quintet with trumpet,
guitar, bass, and drums. Veers into fusion toward the end, with
guitarist Joe Hundertmark taking charge.
The Tommy Vig Orchestra 2012: Welcome to Hungary!
(2011, Klasszikus Jazz): I have an advance CD, and a fairly thick
booklet which is probably a proof copy, but which is so jumbled up
I can make no sense of who plays what or what's going on here. Vig
plays vibes, was b. 1938, studied at Bela Bartok Conservatory, fled
Hungary in 1956, cut some records in US that seem to be regarded as
instrumental pop. This is a big band with cimbalom and tarogato and
a lot of horn power -- the guest performance by David Murray towering
above all. Six bonus cuts without Murray show the band to be loud
and brash, but not all that interesting. In order to rise above the
background, Murray is little short of titanic.
Ricardo Villalobos/Max Loderbauer: Re: ECM (2009
, ECM, 2CD): Two electronics producers. Villalobos, b. 1970
in Chile, has more than a dozen albums since 2002. Loderbauer has
nothing under his own name, but several dozen composer/producer
credits. Both based in Berlin. This isn't a remix of ECM material;
more an attempt to construct electronics frameworks around musical
structures from various ECM records, starting on the classical
end of the spectrum (Arvo Part, Alexander Knaifel) with a few jazz
sources (Louis Sclavis, John Abercrombie, Paul Motian the best
known). First disc leans toward industrial sounds but not intense;
second is more pastoral until it eventually works in some choral
Alex Vittum: Prism (2010 , Prefecture):
Percussionist, based in San Francisco, half of the duo Tide Tables.
Subtitled "solo works for electro-acoustic percussion." Describes
Prism as "a signal processing software environment I developed in
Max/MSP" to use with his drum kit. Interesting, the drumming more
so than the electronics. Not much packaging for my copy: just a
plastic sleeve and an insert.
Larry Vuckovich: Somethin' Special (2011, Tetrachord):
Pianist, b. 1936 in what was then Yugoslavia, moved to San Francisco
in 1951 and developed a taste for bebop. A dozen albums since 1980.
Plays two solos here, a couple of trio cuts, the rest adding Scott
Hamilton and/or Noel Jewkes on tenor sax -- Jewkes takes one cut on
his soprano. A fine pianist, and of course Hamilton is special. Don't
know Jewkes, but aside from the soprano cut it isn't automatically
clear where Hamilton leaves off and he picks up.
Giancarlo Vulcano: Unfinished Spaces (2011, Distant
Second): Guitarist, from Manhattan, also plays synthesizers here.
Second album I know of, both soundtracks. This one has something to
do with the Cuban National Art Schools, Cuban culture and history.
Twenty short pieces, small vignettes that avoid silence, filling in
atmosphere, mood, occasionally a bit of movement. Strings, sax (Jim
Bruening), trumpet (Laurie Krein), percussion (Dafnis Prieto!).
Greg Ward's Phonic Juggernaut (2011, Thirsty Ear):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1982, based in Chicago, has a previous record
by Greg Ward's Fitted Shards. This is a sax trio with Joe Sanders
on bass and Damion Reid on drums. Wrote all but one cover from
Andrew Bird. Freebop, nicely constructed, not many surprises.
Freddie Washington: In the Moment (2009, RFW):
Electric bassist; AMG lists him as Freddie "Ready Freddie" Washington,
and if you don't know that good luck. First and only album, although
his side credits listing runs to three pages, starting in 1977 with
Patrice Rushen and 1979 with Herbie Hancock. Mild-mannered bass-led
groove pieces, emphasis on mild. Some background vocals but nothing
Wellstone Conspiracy: Humble Origins (2010 ,
Origin): Second album under this group name, although there was one
previous listing out the four artists: Brent Jensen (soprano sax),
Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), and John Bishop (drums).
The first three write pieces: 5 for Anschell, 2 for Johnson, 1 for
Jensen; the other is a Lennon-McCartney piece, "Fixing a Hole."
Mainstream group, with Jensen continuing to impress on soprano,
and everyone contributing to the seductive flow.
Kenny Werner with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra: Institute of
Higher Learning (2010 , Half Note): Pianist, b. 1951,
has a wide range of records since 1979. This one is a big band using
his compositions (plus trad favorite "House of the Rising Sun") and
his arrangements. I haven't run into BJO before: AMG lists 4 albums,
their website offers 13 since 1999 for sale. Directed by saxophonist
Frank Vaganée, a standard-sized big band with guitar but no piano --
guitarist Peter Hertmans gets the first solo, a dandy. Dedicated to
Bob Brookmeyer. Liner notes by Maria Schneider.
Westchester Jazz Orchestra: Maiden Voyage Suite
(2011, WJO): Conventional big band, directed and conducted by Mike
Holober, founded in 2003 with Holober joining in 2007. Second album.
I don't doubt the musicianship -- they're close enough to NYC they
can draw some jazz names -- but Herbie Hancock's compositions don't
Kenny Wheeler: One of Many (2006 , CAM Jazz):
With John Taylor and Steve Swallow, as the front cover notes, senior
citizens of the avant-garde, taking it easy but not making it too
easy. Wheeler plays flugelhorn the whole way, as has been his habit
lately. Past 80 now, but this was done a few years back.
Ben Williams: State of Art (2011, Concord Jazz):
Bassist, electric as well as acoustic. Won a Monk prize which came
with a Concord record deal, and this debut is the record. Annoying
that I can't find cut-by-cut credits, since he shuttles horns in
and out, has John Robinson rap on one piece, uses a string quartet
elsewhere. This leans toward easy electronic grooves, with Gerald
Clayton favoring the Fender Rhodes, and possibly the leader his
electric bass, but they're friendly and rather fun, with Jaleel
Shaw and/or Marcus Strickland picking up the level on sax. I'll
even applaud Christian Scott's trumpet solo on "The Lee Morgan
Story" -- not because it reminds me of Morgan so much as because
the rap puts me in a good mood even though the story is tragic.
Just hard to think of Morgan without smiling.
Jeff Williams: Another Time (2010 , Whirlwind):
Drummer, b. 1950 in Ohio, studied at Berklee with Alan Dawson; joined
Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach in 1973, has done steady work as a
sideman, with a handful of albums under his own name. He wrote 5 of 8
pieces here, the other three one each from his two-horn quartet mates:
Duane Eubanks (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto sax), John Hébert
(bass). Postbop tone, draws on the avant-garde without really going
Marty Williams: Long Time Comin' (2010 ,
In Moon Bay): Standards singer, plays piano, based in Bay Area,
website claims 10 albums but can't find him on AMG. Also says
he's a "Apple Certified Logic Pro" -- don't know what that is
but it could well pay better than music. Gritty, distinctive
voice; doesn't sound like much at first but I found it gaining
on me. Eclectic bunch of songs, including some that almost never
work out well, like the Beatles' "Come Together," Jon Hendricks'
vocalese to "Monk's Dream," Bobby Hebb's cheezy "Sunny," and he
gets traction on most of them; the can't fail "Love for Sale,"
of course, but also "Falling in Love Again" and "The Look of
Love" and even "Compared to What."
Anthony Wilson: Seasons: Live at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art (2011, Goat Hill): The title cut is a four-part
song cycle commission for guitar quartet -- Steve Cardenas, Julian
Lage, and Chico Pinheiro help out -- running Winter to Autumn.
After that each guitarist gets a solo piece, then one last group
piece. The quartets sound like soft solos to me, with a slight
Spanish/classical feel. The solos have about half the presence.
Didn't watch the DVD.
Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Legacy (2011, Mack Avenue):
First glance at the title had me wondering why at 92 he's finally
looking back, but the legacy he plumbs here is built on pilfering
bits of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Puccini. In that he's as clever as
ever, but the latter half holds more interest: a seven-part suite
called "Yes, Chicago Is . . ." -- logically, this follows on from
his marvellous Detroit suite. His Orchestra keeps swelling --
six reeds, six trumpets, more solo power than he can possibly use.
Mark Winkler: Sweet Spot (2011, Cafe Pacific):
Vocalist, 11th (or 10th) album since 1985; writes (or co-writes)
about half of his material, including a self-deprecating piece
about a lounge pianist dreaming of Rio (reprised here so there
are both east and west coast versions).
Woody Witt: Pots and Kettles (2010 , Blue Bamboo
Music): Tenor saxophonist (also plays some soprano), born in Omaha,
studied at University of Houston and UNT, based in Houston, teaching
at Houston Community College. Second album, quartet with pianist Gary
Norian (who co-produced and wrote 5 of 10 songs, to Witt's 3, with
two Eddie Harris covers), bass and drums, plus "special guest" Chris
Cortez (guitar) on three tracks. Postbop, nice tone, elegant, graceful.
Andrea Wolper: Parallel Lives (2011, Jazzed Media):
Singer, AMG says b. 1950 (but I don't quite believe that), from
California, based in New York, has three albums since 2005, two
books (one called Women's Rights, Human Rights: International
Feminist Perspectives). I had little to say about her previous
album, but looking back at my notes I'm struck by the musicians
she lined up -- Ron Affif on guitar, Victor Lewis on drums, Frank
London on trumpet -- but this time even more so. In fact, her
website has a daring quote from yours truly arguing that any
album with bassist Ken Filiano and/or drummer Michael TA Thompson
"is practically guaranteed to be superb." So she's hired Filiano
and Thompson, added Kris Davis (whom I've praised repeatedly) on
piano, and Michael Howell on guitar -- didn't know him, but he's
a Kansas City guy, has a couple of long-forgotten 1970s records,
was a sideman on Art Blakey's Buhaina and Dizzy Gillespie's
Bahiana in 1973-75. She doesn't push this band very hard,
but they are impossible to fault, with Howell proving to be a
tasty soloist. Wolper wrote 3 of 12 songs, one more than Joni
Mitchell, one from Buffy Sainte-Marie (maybe she is my age), only
a couple safely wedged in the canonical songbook. Her originals
are more interesting than the covers, and while she doesn't blow
you away as a singer, she carries the songs.
Andréa Wood: Dhyana (2010 , Wood): Title is a
Buddhist term (can't do the macron accent over the first 'a' using my
chosen codeset); has something to do with reflection/serenity. Singer,
first album; wrote 1 of 11 songs, added lyrics to a Wayne Shorter
melody for another, arranged the rest. From Washington, DC, one of
those "musical families" where she started piano at five (although
others play here). Spent three years of her childhood in Prague.
Studied at Michigan State and Manhattan School of Music. Nice voice
on a straight standard -- "I Only Have Eyes for You" is seductive,
for a while. Don't care for the two Brazilian arrangements (yes,
one's a Jobim).
Sam Yahel: From Sun to Sun (2010 , Origin):
Plays piano and organ -- probably has many more organ credits in his
career than piano, but lists piano here first. Surprisingly little
biography available on web -- even on his own website once I hacked
through the Flash: moved to New York in 1990, played with a lot of
people; seventh album, has about two dozen side credits, with Norah
Jones and Joshua Redman prominent. Trio with Matt Penman on bass,
Jochen Rueckert (aka Rückert) on drums. Piano is snappy and assured;
organ slinky, which is about right.
Yeahwon (2010, ArtistShare): Vocalist Yeahwon Shin,
from South Korea ("suburbs of Seoul"), moved to New York to study at
New School. First album: aside from one Korean folk song, everything
else is Brazilian, sung in Portuguese, with Yeahwon co-credited on
one piece with Egberto Gismonti. Core group is Ben Street (bass),
Jeff Ballard (drums), and either Kevin Hays or Alon Yavnai (piano),
with producer Sun Chung on guitar (6 of 11 cuts), with Mark Turner
(tenor sax) and Rob Curto (accordion) on one cut each, Gismonti on
the "Epilogue," and various percussionists. I can see the attraction,
but not the point.
Denny Zeitlin: Labyrinth: Live Solo Piano (2008 ,
Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1938, has a couple dozen records since 1964.
Three of last four have been solo, which strikes me as too many but
he's deep within his own distinctive style.
Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook
(2011, Marsalis Music): Alto saxophonist, MacArthur Fellowship genius,
seventh album since 2002, third specifically targeting the music of his
native Puerto Rico. Tremendous player, his sax repeatedly soaring above
his fine quartet -- Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), and
Henry Cole (drums). I'm less pleased with the 10-piece wind ensemble
conducted by Guillermo Klein -- flutes, clarinets, oboe, bassoon, both
French and English horns -- that sometimes broadens the sound sweep
and sometimes just warbles in the interstices.
The following records, carried over from the
done and print
files at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for
- Afterfall (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Agogic (2010 , Tables and Chairs) B+(***)
- Aida Severo (2007 , Slam) B+(***)
- Ralph Alessi and This Against That: Wiry Strong (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Scott Amendola Trio: Lift (2010, Sazi) B+(***)
- Lynne Arriale: Convergence (2010 , Motéma) B+(***)
- Clint Ashlock Big Band: New Jazz Order (2008 , self-released) B+(***)
- Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Omer Avital: Free Forever (2007 , Smalls) B+(***)
- BassDrumBone: The Other Parade (2011, Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Bebop Trio (2011, Creative Nation Music) B+(***)
- The Louie Belogenis Trio: Tiresias (2008 , Porter) B+(***)
- Tim Berne: Insomnia (1997 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Tim Berne/Jim Black/Nels Cline: The Veil (2009 , Cryptogramophone) B+(***)
- Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Ketil Bjørnstad: Remembrance (2009 , ECM) B+(***)
- Jim Black/Trevor Dunn/Oscar Noriega/Chris Speed: Endangered Blood (2010 , Skirl) B+(***)
- BLOB: Earphonious Swamphony (2010, Innova) B+(***)
- Dan Block: Plays the Music of Duke Ellington: From His World to Mine (2009 , Miles High) B+(***)
- Jaki Byard: A Matter of Black and White: Live at the Keystone Korner, Vol. 2 (1978-79 , High Note) B+(***)
- The Chris Byars Octet: Lucky Strikes Again (2010 , SteepleChase) A-
- Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Les Nuages en France (2010 , Mode/Avant) B+(***)
- Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project: Seriously (2011, Smog Veil) B+(***)
- Chaise Lounge: Symphony Lounge (2010, Big Round) B+(***)
- Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne: Old and Unwise (2010 , Clean Feed) B+(***)
- Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet) B+(***)
- The Cookers: Cast the First Stone (2010 , Plus Loin Music) B+(***)
- Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani: Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus) B+(***)
- Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (2009 , Bju'ecords) A-
- Claire Daly Quintet: Mary Joyce Project: Nothing to Lose (2011, Daly Bread) B+(***)
- Miles Davis Quintet: Live Europe 1967: Bootleg Vol. 1 (1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 3CD+DVD) A-
- Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet (2010 , Delmark) A-
- De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (2009 , Strotbrocck) A-
- Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (2009 , Cuneiform) A-
- Ismael Dueñas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 , Quadrant) A-
- Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma) B+(***)
- Echoes of Swing: Message From Mars (2010 , Echoes of Swing) B+(***)
- Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 , Origin) B+(***)
- Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (2011, Prime Source) A-
- Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn]: Out of This World's Distortions (2010 , AUM Fidelity) B+(***)
- John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 , Capri) B+(***)
- Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quintet: In Good Company (2009 , Capri) A-
- Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
- Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire (2009 , Drip Audio) A-
- Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 , Delmark) B+(***)
- Matt Herskowitz: Jerusalem Trilogy (2009-10 , Justin Time) B+(***)
- Anne Mette Iversen Quartet: Milo Songs (2011, Bju'ecords) B+(***)
- Joan Jeanrenaud/PC Muñoz: Pop-Pop (2010, Deconet) B+(***)
- Darren Johnston's Gone to Chicago: The Big Lift (2010 , Porto Franco) B+(***)
- Lee Konitz: Insight (1989-95 , Jazzwerkstatt) B+(***)
- Ernie Krivda: Blues for Pekar (2011, Capri) B+(***)
- Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (2009 , Music Now!) A-
- Jerry Leake & Randy Roos: Cubist Live (2010 , Rhombus Publishing) A-
- The David Liebman Trio: Lieb Plays the Blues à la Trane (2008 , Challenge) B+(***)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! (2011, Hot Cup) B+(***)
- Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes (2008-09 , Hollistic Music Works) B+(***)
- Maïkotron Unit: Ex-Voto (2011, Jazz From Rant) A-
- Rebecca Martin: When I Was Long Ago (2010, Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Alexander McCabe: Quiz (2009-10 , CAP) A-
- Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrù/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 , Big Round) B+(***)
- Sei Miguel/Pedro Gomes: Turbina Anthem (2008 , NoBusiness) B+(***)
- Moon Hotel Lounge Project: Into the Ojalá (2010 , Frosty Cordial) A-
- New York Standards Quartet: Unstandard (2010 , Challenge) B+(***)
- Nordic Connect: Spirals (2008 , ArtistShare) B+(***)
- NY Jazz Initiative: Mad About Thad (2010 , Jazzheads) B+(***)
- Other Dimensions in Music featuring Fay Victor: Kaiso Stories (2010 , Silkheart) B+(***)
- Ivo Perelman Quartet: The Hour of the Star (2010 , Leo) B+(***)
- Adam Pieronczyk: Komeda: The Innocent Sorcerer (2009 , Jazzwerkstatt) A-
- Joshua Redman/Aaron Parks/Matt Penman/Eric Harland: James Farm (2011, Nonesuch) B+(***)
- Claire Ritter: The Stream of Pearls Project (2009-10 , Zoning) A-
- Roswell Rudd: The Incredible Honk (2011, Sunnyside) B+(***)
- Bobby Sanabria: Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (2008 , Jazzheads) B+(***)
- Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri) B+(***)
- Serafin: Love's Worst Crime (2010, Serafin) B+(***)
- Tommy Smith: Karma (2010 , Spartacus) A-
- Wadada Leo Smith's Organic: Heart's Reflections (2011, Cuneiform, 2CD) A-
- Terell Stafford: This Side of Strayhorn (2010 , MaxJazz) B+(***)
- Starlicker: Double Demon (2011, Delmark) A-
- Kevin Tkacz Trio: It's Not What You Think (2007 , Piece of Work of Art) B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf Quartet: Recorded Live April 8, 2008 Koger Hall University of South Carolina (2008 , Capri) B+(***)
- Ezra Weiss: The Shirley Horn Suite (2010 , Roark) B+(***)
- Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Meets Bill Cunliffe (2010 , SMS Jazz) B+(***)
- Kenny Werner: Balloons (2010 , Half Note) B+(***)
- Howard Wiley and the Angola Project: 12 Gates to the City (2008 , HNIC Music) B+(***)
- Zed Trio: Lost Transitions (2009 , Ayler) B+(***)